By: Joshua Sampson, Staff Writer
The Boyne City Deacon’s Benevolence Fund is looking to pass the plate.
Going back more than 50 years, the Deacon’s Benevolence Fund has helped support Boyne City residents through the Presbyterian church by offering financial aid to residents in need. Oral Sutliff, inactive deacon and former treasurer for the Presbyterian church, has been actively attempting to increase donations to the fund because he believes it pivotal during a recession. “I’ve been fortunate that this hasn’t happened to me,” said Sutliff. “I do know a lot of people that have been through rough times though.”
The Deacon’s Benevolence Fund is provided by the Boyne City Ministerial Association, which is a conglomeration of all the churches in Boyne City. In the past, there was a Deacon’s Fund for each church, but the association decided they would let the Presbyterian church handle the fund to centralize donations. “Every year the giving is increasing, but so is the help that is needed from the people,” said Sutliff. The Deacon’s Benevolence Fund helps those in need with heating, food, utilities and other basic needs that people may be struggling with; however, the organization does not give cash to resident, instead, they handle all matters through the church. “You just don’t know where the money goes,” said Sutliff. “Unfortunately, bad things do happen.”
The first step for those looking for aid is to go to the church and fill-out paperwork; concerns, said Sutliff, are taken from there. “The demand is high and the funding doesn’t always keeps up,” he said. “So, we asked the churches if they would have a monthly collection for he Deacon’s Fund.” Churches around Boyne City obliged, and the first Sunday of every month is a special collection period for most churches in Boyne—over the years, it has helped fund the program.
Banding together is good, Sutliff said, because it’s easier to handle outgoing assistance through one location. “I believe it helps in the amount in what the church can allocate, and it helps them extend a helping hand,” he said. The need for help is always increasing, said Sutliff, but supporters of the Deacon’s Benevolence Fund are looking to remain strong even while there is a low amount of donations. “Donations are accepted, whether they are anonymous or not,” Sutliff said. “It seems like the people who have been helped appreciate what help they have gotten in the past.”
Compensation is not always in the form of money though; according to Sutliff, citizens have reimbursed the fund by doing whatever they can. “A lot of people will say, ‘Is there anything I can do?’” Sutliff said. “So, we’ve had people help by cutting the grass before.”
Contributing to people’s lives when they need the help, said Sutliff, is important because no one knows what will happen in the future—anyone could be put in the position where they need the assistance at any time. “Sometimes, when people call for help, you can hear a baby crying in the background,” Sutliff said, “And that’s just hard to take.” Sutliff stresses the importance of the Deacon’s Benevolence Fund, and he said it is an exemplary organization for the community when the economy has taken a downturn. “The Deacon’s Foundation is a good organization, but right now they need some financial help,” he said. “We know things are tough, too—economy and jobs—but people need help.” A benefit dinner for the fund is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the Saint Matthews Church in Boyne City; the price for the dinner is a single donation. “In the past, we’ve had several of these dinners,” said Sutliff, “And we found that people who can donate, do donate, and those who can donate more, donate more.”