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Area nonprofits weigh risks

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GREENFIELD — The weekend’s winter blast left most of the county’s nonprofit and social safety net organizations to weigh the risks of trying to do business as usual or put their clients, employees and volunteers in jeopardy, and that was little choice at all.

“There are bigger things involved,” said Tom Ferguson, president of the Hancock County Food Pantry. “There’s the safety of our clients – they don’t need to be out in this weather – and the safety of our volunteers as well.”

Ferguson said several volunteers couldn’t get out of their homes, and given the fact that many of the pantry’s clients would often show up well before the doors opened, the day’s weather risk factors were too steep to chance bringing anyone out for any reason.

Linda Hart, executive director of Hancock County Senior Services, Inc., which includes the organization’s Hancock Area Rural Transit system, said the weather was making things difficult, but fortunately, most residents’ transportation destinations were forced to close as well.

“It’s always more difficult, but the doctors’ offices are closed also,” Hart said. “It’s difficult on multiple levels, but so far it’s been all right.”

Hart said the transit service’s wheel-chair accessible vans ride lower than a normal vehicle, making them more susceptible to bogging down and getting stuck in the heavy snow.

“Our drivers risk getting stuck, and we don’t want to risk that with a client in the vehicle,” she said.

Moreover, even if the agency’s vehicles could get out, many of the service’s clients were barricaded behind driveways full of snow, making it impossible to get to them in any event.

Hart said the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department was able to lend assistance early Monday to transport a dialysis patient in one of the department’s four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Neither agency intends to open Tuesday as weather conditions are expected to be substantially similar to Monday’s, opting instead to review plans with an eye toward resuming services on Wednesday.

“We’ll just take it one day at a time,” she said.

Jim Peters, Salvation Army local chairman, said though a shelter was online at Greenfield’s First Presbyterian Church Monday morning, it did not have to be activated.

“We had the fellowship hall there available as an intake center on standby, but we really didn’t have a situation where we needed to open it,” Peters said.

Peters said only brief power outages were experienced in the Greenfield area, which he believed to be the reason no one called for shelter and assistance.

At Hancock Hope House, Chris Wiseman, program coordinator, said all was well with the 15 individuals residing there and that no additional requests for shelter had come in by Monday afternoon.

“So far, the day is going well,” Wiseman said. “We haven’t had a single call. We have power, plenty of food and everyone is taken care of down here. It’s as quiet as a mouse.”

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