Nonprofits reach out for help as costs rise

Volunteers with The Villages Habitat for Humanity Club, left to right, Fran Harper, of the Village of Hemingway, Kevin Tucker, of the Village Del Mar, Andy Laskowsky, of the Village Rio Grande, and John Holmes, of the Village of Pine Ridge, help build a home on Skycrest Boulevard in Fruitland Park.

Having a home built by The Villages Habitat for Humanity Club was a life-changing event for Joyce Tohill and her family, including her special-needs daughter. Tohill was the recipient of the club’s first build last year in Fruitland Park. When she learned that the group needed assistance, she was quick to sign up to help another family. With inflation slowing some nonprofits’ projects, many are reaching out to the community for a hand. Rising gas prices are affecting cancer patients needing transportation, rising food prices are affecting the amount and type of food local food pantries can hand out, and the rising cost of building supplies is affecting groups that provide housing. The Villages Habitat for Humanity Club had to raise money before starting its second build, which was delayed until December because of building cost increases.

“We knew in October the build was going to be delayed, so we had to get creative,” said Sally Read, co-president of the group. “We held a fundraiser as our costs went from $10,000 to $15,000. We ended up working with Nothing Bundt Cakes in (The Villages) and having an additional fundraiser to meet our goal, but we are still raising money since we will decorate when the build is finished.”

Prices for building supplies increased more than 29% from January 2021 to now, RoMac Building Supply of Central Florida Chief Executive Officer Don Magruder said in a news release.

“Builders should account for possible huge price increases in lumber and be aware of the inflation that is happening in all other sectors of the building material supply chain,” Magruder said. “I understand it is extremely frustrating for everyone.”

As The Villages Habitat for Humanity club keeps working on its house, they are accepting extra volunteers and donations. To learn more, visit habitatls.org.

Local food pantries also are seeing increased prices, especially with nutritious foods.

“We want to make sure our clients get a well-rounded, healthy, yet balanced meal,” said Colleen Brooks, director of the Beyond the Walls food pantry, a ministry of Heritage Community Church in Fruitland Park. “With rising costs, we are getting meats from food banks like Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, but we have to watch how much we spend, so we are thankful for donations of vegetables, whole grain foods and nonperishable foods.”

Kristen Curtis, population health supervisor and registered dietitian for The Villages Health, said it is very important to consider nutrient density when selecting foods for children and senior populations.

“Children will need different nutrients than senior adults,” Curtis said. “Children need good quality protein to help support their growth, whereas seniors may need smaller amounts of protein and more whole grains.”

Curtis further explained that while adequate amounts of protein can be obtained from meat, it can be expensive and hard to find.

“Eating plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, nuts and seeds can be cheaper and filling,” she said. “These proteins also can last longer than meat in the pantry.”

As food pantries look for additional ways to help their clients, they are reaching out to other nonprofits to see how they can help. To learn more about how to help, contact your local food pantry.

Groups like the American Cancer Society and Caring Neighbors need more volunteers to help with transportation to doctor appointments.

“For those who cannot drive themselves or have no other means of getting to their treatment because they don’t have a vehicle, someone to help or the funds for gas, our Road To Recovery volunteers donate their spare time to give cancer patients a lift,” said Tenna Pappas, Road to Recovery program manager with the American Cancer Society. “Our volunteers donate their time and personal vehicles to get these clients to and from their appointments at no cost to them.”

With the increasing gas prices, Pappas expects the program will become busier as more people reach out for rides. For more information on how to help, visit cancer.org.

Caring Neighbors already has seen an increase in residents needing an extra hand.

“One of the services we offer our clients is free rides, where volunteers step up and get that person to wherever they need to go,” said Anne Bosler, founder of the group. 

When someone asks Caring Neighbors for help, they are assessed to make sure their needs match what the group can offer. 

“They are given a magnet with a phone number to our volunteer coordinator,” Bosler said. “They tell the coordinator what services they need and the coordinator reaches out to the volunteers to see who can help. These volunteers help with transportation, grocery shopping and running errands like getting their mail or walking their dog.”

From pets to porches, the impact is clear in the lives of people like Tohill.

“Having a daughter who has special needs, it’s nice to know if something happens to me, she will have a place she can call home,” she said. “She won’t have to worry about if she’s going to live on the streets. Having the group build a house for me, blessing me with this gift, is why I now lend a hand through volunteer work with the group.”

Senior writer Andrea Davis can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5374, or andrea.davis@thevillagesmedia.com.