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Hillsboro people are generous givers, according to charitable organizations in town, regardless of whether economic times are up or down.

While money is a vital component in helping people face financial trouble, it isn?t the complete answer to meeting their needs.

?A woman was talking about a pretty dire situation,? said Randy Smith, pastor of the First Mennonite Church. ?Her husband was out of work, they had run through their savings, had no health insurance. They were in a tight position.?

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Lillian Bookless organizes food items at the food bank inside Hillsboro?s Main Street Ministries. During the past month, she said, she has seen the amount of families needing food double and expects that need to continue into the new year. Patty Decker / Free Press

Smith said the church could help in a couple of ways to give immediate relief, but this family needed jobs.

Stephen Humber, associate pastor of Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church and treasurer of the Hillsboro Area Ministerial Alliance, has a similar perspective.

?We have definitely seen an increase in assistance this year,? he said.

The majority of those who approach HAMA, he said, are families with children.

Humber said the alliance evaluates each family on a case-by-case basis. ?We try to find out what they need or what is going on in their life without trying to be bossy.?

A family may need help with a particular bill or just some funds to get them through a difficult time.

?We are not a bottomless pit,? Humber said, adding that the alliance gives about $100 (per person) in a calendar year.

?We are not intended to be a regular source,? he said, ?but we try to give a compassionate response.?

Humber also points people toward other resources, such as the Marion County Emergency Food Bank, Main Street Ministries, Parents As Teachers and Communities in School.

As examples of hope, Humber spoke about a person who was laid off from his job and needed help with mounting bills.

?We gave him a little food and gave him possible job prospects,? he said. ?He ended up getting a job from the referral.?

The flip-side for Humber is the people and organizations who give.

?We have two primary sources of help,? he said. ?The first is our two community services, which are Palm Sunday and Thanksgiving,? he said.

People have been generous and compassionate, Humber said, and want to help.

The second source of income is the annual Toy Run.

?These guys are amazing,? Humber said. ?The assistance they give us is incredible.?

He said HAMA received more than $3,300 this year, and $2,900 and $2,600 the two previous years.

?Since 2003, the Toy Run has brought in more than $16,000 (to HAMA) and it?s a huge source in helping families,? he said.

Although Humber said it can be a ?drop in the bucket? for what people need, but he wants to try.

?I want to do everything I can to bridge a conversation with how to help,? he said. ?I pray for them and so are church folks.?

Another hat Humber wears is as unit treasurer for the Salvation Army.

As part of a pilot program, Humber organized getting the ?little red kettles? distributed to businesses in Hillsboro and Marion last year. This year, the kettles have been circulated to Peabody, Florence, Lincolnville and Durham.

Humber is optimistic about the many programs in place to help those in need, but he also has a vision for the future.

?So many of us help our neighbors, but what if we all had a vision of ramping it up a bit and doing a little more?? he said.

Gaylord Goertzen, pastor of Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church and chair of HAMA, said he was thankful the alliance has been able to help those in need and continues to have the resources to do that.

Lillian Bookless, director of Main Street Ministries, said she has seen a huge increase in people coming to the food bank.

?We have had a lot of new people and new families, too, and I believe it will continue into January,? she said.

Citing a typical week over the past six months, Bookless said she may see 10 families. But in the past two days, some 22 families have been in for food.

?We also try to give these families ideas,? she said, ?and as a Christian organization, we might pray with them too. Other ways we try to help is by suggesting other resources they may not have thought of.?

Along with running the food bank, Bookless is in charge of Main Street Ministries, which helps people who have fallen over the edge from financial problems.

?Someone may have walked out of the family, or any number of other misfortunes might leave the remaining family members in a financial crisis,? she said.

Main Street Ministries is there to help, she said, allowing a family to stay for a year or two while they network and learn new skills.

The charitable organizations in Hillsboro wanted to thank the community for its financial generosity and allowing them to continue to help others during the holiday season and throughout the year.

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