Wesley House faces cash crunch

By By Sharon White/The Meridian Star
While services at Wesley House Community Center have expanded over the past two years, funding to support the long-running projects has decreased.
In 1998, Wesley operated 28 programs including a Christmas outreach which provided toys, gifts and food to more than 500 families with the help of churches and private contributions.
Churches were responsible for $137,749 in contributions that year, while private donors gave $153,043.
In 1999, contributions from area churches decreased to $132,951 while private donations dropped to $145,399. The downward trend appears to be continuing this year, said Nell Grissom, executive director.
In the last three years, Wesley House has added three new services bringing the number of programs offered to residents in six counties surrounding Lauderdale County to 31.
The first of the three new services, established in 1998, offers professional counseling to families of homicide victims. Later that year, the program was broadened to include a support group, which continues to meet weekly at Wesley. The program required the hiring of one full-time and one part-time therapist.
In 1999, Wesley House opened the community's first free medical clinic. The clinic is open Tuesday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. with more than a dozen physicals and other health care professionals volunteering their help on a rotating basis.
The clinic offers free medical support to those who have no insurance or any other means of payment, and provides medicines prescribed by Wesley's physicians free of charge.
This year, Wesley staff members have seen the need for assistance with utilities, rent and emergency food almost double.
Throughout the growth of services, the decrease in funding has forced the staff of 12 includes a cook and janitor to rely heavily on grants.
For more information, call 485-4736 or write Grissom at 1520 Eighth Ave., Meridian, MS 39301.
Sharon White is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at swhite@meridianstar.com.