Editor's note: This is the final story in a nine-part series, publishing on Thursdays about nonprofit organizations and agencies which benefit from the annual Groceries for Good campaign. The 2019 Groceries for Good food drive will be held Saturday.
By DAVID ZOELLER
The holidays can be a joyous time for families, but it also can be a time of increased stress.
When that stress occurs, the Family Service Society is among the area's nonprofit agencies that help low-income families in Paducah and McCracken County deal with crisis in a variety of ways.
And, the annual Groceries for Good program helps agencies like the Family Service Society make the holidays a little brighter for its clients with its food pantry and other resources.
"Groceries for Good is extremely important to our agency, because this time of year we're hit really hard," said Candace Melloy, FSS executive director. "Our shelves tend to be pretty depleted and we have a lot of clients who are just stretched to the max, stretched more thin than normal.
"And, so they rely on our food pantry to make it through the next day, the next month. We make sure we have the things they need which makes our shelves more and more depleted, so Groceries for Good comes up at just the perfect time," she said.
In addition to food, the Family Service Society also helps with personal care items and cleaning supplies, has a dental program and a clothing room, and offers utility assistance.
The Family Service Society has been serving the area for 92 years.
"We assist about 250 households a month with the food pantry," Melloy said. "At this time of year, it increases to 300-350 families. Last December, we actually increased up to 512 households."
FSS has four staff members and a number of volunteers, including some who have been clients in the past, according to Melloy.
"There aren't many jobs that you get to come to where you know you're making a difference in somebody's life every single day, and especially this time of year," Melloy said.
"We have a lot of resources we can give, but time is one of our most precious commodities to be able to give to folks that are in need ... it's very meaningful."
The agency uses Charity/Tracker, a web application which helps measure community assistance. It also helps with inter-agency referrals and can prevent duplication of services.
"It really helps to make sure when a client walks in our door, we're confident that if it's not a service we provide (that they need), we can help connect them to another agency or service provider," Melloy said.
"Our goal at Family Service Society is not just to put a Band-Aid on the problem. We don't want to just address the immediate need whether it's food or clothing," she said.
"Of course we will do that, but we also want to sit down with each client, learn what their circumstances are and help connect them with all the other agencies that can help them get some momentum and start getting out of whatever situation they're in."
The Paducah community is fortunate to have so many service agencies working together, according to Melloy.
"Our community members are like a family and it takes our whole family, or whole village, of community members pulling together to help."