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Charities have yet to feel effect from GM closing

While many local charities haven’t seen a direct effect from General Motors closing earlier this year, one non-profit is looking at a larger picture.

Ginny Pasha, United Way of Trumbull County president, said that once news of employee downsizing made headlines in 2017, the non-profit, along with others, began planning.

Non-profits began “planning for a future with fewer employees” once the plant’s third shift was eliminated in 2017, Pasha said.

Then, when the second shift was eliminated in 2018, “I think that stage of the game, our United Way, like many others, could see the handwriting on the wall,” she said.

Jumping into action, United Way of Trumbull County took the series of layoffs into consideration when putting the strategic plan for 2020 in place.

“We had already started realigning our budget,” Pasha said.

Working with a network of 23 “partner organizations,” Pasha said that there hasn’t been an apparent financial change of donations this year, according to several of those agencies.

The United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley noted it has seen a loss of volunteers.

“We definitely lost that volutneer base,” said Roxann Sebest, director of marketing and communciations for the Youngstown location. She added that GM was “one of our largest volunteer bases.”

Going forward, Sebest said the organization is wondering what the absence of the plant will mean in the next several years. In the meantime, diversifying programs by reaching out for corporate gifts as well as working in schools have helped, Sebest said, noting that “educators and teachers stepped up this year.”

Michael Iberis, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley — which covers Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties — said the food bank doesn’t necessarily keep track of who givers are, but there hasn’t been any trend indicating GM’s exit has affected donations.

On the other side, there hasn’t seemed to be an influx of GM families needing food assistance, either. “As far as people showing up at the soup kitchen or pantry, no one” is identifying themselves as a GM employee, Iberis added.

In any case, Iberis said “it’s too early to tell” the impact GM has had on the food bank.

The Salvation Army of Warren hasn’t noticed a direct correlation between GM’s closing and donations.

“In regards to Christmas we have not seen an increase. The need for food pantry and utility assistance is up, but we feel it is not necessarily GM, but members of the community who hear from others who receive our services normally,” Capt. Kiley Williams of the Salvation Army said.

Regarding how each agency is handling and planning the loss of GM, Pasha said: “We are all reacting to the loss.”

In Trumbull County, there have been more direct services requests, including utility payments and rent due to a “disruption of families,” Pasha said.

“Our families are scattered all over,” she explained, noting that many households are split between Trumbull County and now other GM locations in the country, or families are living on one less income.

According to data from the Asset Limited, Income Constrainted, Employed report, or ALICE report, in 2016 a survival budget for a single individual was $9.71 per hour. For a household survival budget including two adults, one infant and one preschooler, an hourly wage of $34.90 was needed to meet basic needs.

Those basic needs as identified by the ALICE report include housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care, technology, miscellaneous and taxes.

A “ripple effect” is to be anticipated through Trumbull County, Pasha said, explaining that some agencies have seen volunteerism drop. She added that GM employees helped pack meals and sort food for the area.

afox@tribtoday.com

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