Neighborhood Services Center to hold 43rd annual auction
By Steven Hoffman
Since the Neighborhood Services Center (NSC) was founded on Nov. 1, 1971, tens of thousands of families have relied on its programs and services—especially during times of need.
In some ways, the needs in the community—NSC serves the Oxford and Avon Grove area, as well as the Chester County portion of the Octorara School District—have never been greater. During a typical month, 820 families in southern Chester County receive help from the NSC. But that’s just one illustration of how important the center is to families when they find themselves living through times of need. During a recent 12-month period, NSC served 1,562 clients with its information and referral program, responded to 1,842 requests for food and155 requests for clothing, and fulfilled 171 emergency requests by clients who needed help paying for housing, heat, or electricity bills.
Much of the help that NSC provides would not be possible without the support of the community. On Friday, April 25, NSC will be holding its 43rd annual auction and fundraiser, starting at 6 p.m. at the Oxford Fire Hall on Market Street.
“This is the biggest fundraiser that we have each year,” explained NSC executive director Cheryl McConnell. She said that in addition to the live and silent auction, the event will include a performance by a jazz band and food catered by Peppercorn’s.
Last year’s auction raised approximately $32,000, and with the ever-increasing needs in the community, this year’s event is important for NSC.
“The 43rd annual Neighborhood Services Center Auction is shaping up to be another great opportunity for the community to celebrate working together to provide assistance to our friends and neighbors in Oxford and the surrounding area,” said Gene Herr, the chairman of the board of directors for NSC.
McConnell said that there are various auctions items that will be up for bid: several vacation packages, including a two-night weekend in Times Square; ticket packages to Philadelphia Phillies games; a fire truck ride donated by the Oxford Union Fire Company; a carriage ride and picnic in the local countryside; furniture items; several quilts; framed photographs by local photographers; jewelry, ceramics, and other handcrafted items; gift baskets and gift certificates from local shops and restaurants; and gift certificates from museums in the area.
One of the objective’s of this year’s auction, McConnell said, is to increase awareness about the need to expand the offerings of NSC’s community food cupboard.
“We’re highlighting the fact that we are expanding our food cupboard,” McConnell explained. She noted that need for food assistance has increased greatly over the last nine years. Back then, about 145 families received food from the cupboard. Now, that number has climbed to 375 families. NSC provides a week’s worth of food, and families can come in once a month if necessary. One goal that the NSC has is to have enough room so that recipients can come into the facility and select the food items that they receive.
“The food cupboard is one of the major things that we do and we rely heavily on local donations,” McConnell explained. “We rely on the local schools, the local churches, and other groups like the ABATE and HOG motorcycle groups.”
The Neighborhood Services Center also provides assistance to people who are struggling to pay for basic needs like heat or housing by making payment arrangements with a community vendor. In the most recent fiscal year, there were 171 different requests for help meeting basic needs. That’s a 39 percent increase over the previous year. McConnell said that the United Way of Southern Chester County provides most of the funding to meet these basic needs.
McConnell said that the United Way’s support over the years has been very important.
NSC also does what it can to generate revenues that are then used to pay for programs and services that benefit people in the community. One initiative that the NSC has undertaken is operating a thrift shop at 21 S. Third Street that is largely staffed by volunteers. Here, donated items are sold to the public or made available to those families who seek assistance through NSC. All the proceeds raised from sales at the shop are used to fund existing programs.
Another way that NSC serves the community is by providing space for numerous social service organizations, bringing those services closer to the families in southern Chester County who need them. Human Services, Inc., the Crime Victims Center, Maternal & Child Healthcare Consortium-Healthy Start Program, Family Services of Chester County, and the Domestic Violence Center all utilize space in the NSC building. Other agencies that provide services at the center include the American Cancer Society’s Wigs for Cancer Patients program, the Superior Workforce Solutions, AARP Tax Assistance, Ce’ Ja Associates Counseling, and the Chester County Health Department.
NSC also offers an information and referral program that helps individuals find and access the many health and human services that are available to them. The NSC staff can help with everything from locating services to filling out the often complicated forms that are required to receive these services. McConnell said that proceeds from the auction are help make these services possible.
Sponsors for the event include Herr Foods, the Avon Grove Lions Club, the Oxford Lions Club, Hostetter Grain, National Penn Bank, and Jackson ImmunoResearch, Inc.
Herr thanked the Oxford Union Fire Company No. 1 for allowing the Neighborhood Services Center to hold its auction at the fire hall.
“We are grateful to all our sponsors, donor partners, food and drink providers, and the many volunteers who make this event possible,” he said.
McConnell said that sponsorship opportunities, which also include tickets for the event, are still available. More information is available about these opportunities by calling 610-932-8557.
Tickets for the auction are $45 and can be purchased www.oxfordnsc.org.