Joseph knows how ‘United Way helps here’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 5, 2000

In the middle of racks of clothing in the old Carpenter No. 1 School cafeteria is a small sign: &uot;United Way helps here.&uot;

And President Robert Joseph remembers many of the people who have passed through the decaying building, looking for a helping hand.

One man was in need of a new suit when his suitcases were stolen as he passed through town.

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Another woman, suffering from cancer, needed school uniforms for her children.

&uot;I don’t know what those people would do if someone didn’t help them,&uot; Joseph said. &uot;You just can’t pass up people. You just can’t walk away from people that’s in need like that.&uot;

Associated Charities, which for now is housed at the Carpenter school, is one of 25 area agencies that receive money each year from United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou.

Joseph and other board members make sure that money is cared for well. The organization receives about $5,000 annually from United Way to help fund its prescription drug program, which provides medication for people who cannot afford it.

&uot;So many people are caught between insurance and federal programs,&uot; Joseph said. &uot;People need their medications.&uot;

In addition to giving away clothing and vouchers for medications, Associated Charities gives food vouchers to those in need, Joseph said. All of the services are free to those who qualify. The organization keeps strict records, Joseph said. Every article of clothing, every food voucher, every prescription drug is carefully recorded so that donors know exactly where their money is going.

Last year, Associated Charities gave away more than 50,000 articles of clothing.

Associated Charities was born out of a movement begun in 1905, when donors would gather coal for people in need. Later it evolved to provide more services, such as food and clothing, Joseph said.

&uot;They used to give them garden seed,&uot; he said.&160;&uot;But now we just give them groceries.

&uot;Things have changed drastically over the years.&uot;

What hasn’t changed is the need for giving — and the response to that need.

&uot;People are anxious to help, regardless of who they are,&uot; Joseph said. &uot;When there’s a need, they’ll come through.&uot;

Right now Associated Charities is in need of a new building. The city is working with investors to turn the old Carpenter School into senior citizen apartments, which will displace Associated Charities and its racks of clothing and shelves of books and household goods.

The organization plans to give its clothing to the Salvation Army and provide the food and prescription drug services out of board members’ houses until they can find a new building.

Associated Charities works with other United Way agencies as well. Along with the Salvation Army, the organization has worked with Catholic Charities and the Sunshine Shelter, Joseph said.

And like volunteers for those organizations, Joseph said Associated Charities benefits as much as the people they help.

&uot;The people who work here get more pleasure than the people who receive,&uot; he said.