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Chester County Press

Editorial: More and more dots

02/14/2023 03:07PM ● By Richard Gaw

On the evening of September 26, 2022, Kennett Area Community Service (KACS) Executive Director Leah Reynolds met before the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors. She came with a seven-page power point presentation, telling statistics and a fair request.

The agency’s resume was thick with progress: In 2022, as southern Chester County’s only agency of its kind, KACS provided housing and crisis support, food and a path forward for 1,648 households and 4,601 individuals who live in the Oxford Area School District, the Avon Grove School District, the Kennett Consolidated School District and the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.

Reynolds provided the New Garden board with a general overview of the agency and the myriad of services it provides to both the underserved and unserved of southern Chester County: its Food Cupboard, its Emergency Assistance programs and its Bridges Out of Poverty workshops, that help those in poverty to build their resources for a more prosperous life for their families and themselves.

During her presentation, Reynolds told the board that KACS provides food, emergency assistance and crisis services to over 5,000 residents of New Garden Township which as of the 2020 Census, had a population of just over 11,000. The numbers – at the time of the presentation and even now – are shocking, indicating that just under half of those who live in the township require KACS’ services to be able to eat and be housed in adequate shelter in the event of emergency.

She told the board that the agency provides financial assistance for rent, utility bills, and other basic living expenses to prevent homelessness, eviction, or utility shut-off for families in need.​

At the conclusion of her presentation, Reynolds requested to the board that KACS become an annual line item in the New Garden Township budget and annually receive $25,000 from the township it serves.

Reynolds’ request was denied. In a township that continues to be flush with cash as a result of the $29.5 million sale of its wastewater system, its board turned its back on over 5,000 people who live in the same municipality as they do, who were voted into office to serve all of the people who live there.

On the evening of October 19, 2022, Reynolds conducted a similar presentation before the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors. During 2022, KACS provided food, emergency assistance and crisis services to nearly 500 residents in the township. Again, she requested that a $25,000 annual line item be created by the township that would be directed to the agency.

After donating $5,000 to KACS the year before, the township voted in favor of reducing their contribution to zero. In the richest municipality in Pennsylvania, not one dime went to the agency.

These are just two examples of a brazen and blind neglect being demonstrated by local municipalities toward KACS, and the deafening silence of their non action has never been more reverberating than now. In the last two years – due in large part to COVID-19, large-impact weather-related events, inflation and an economic downturn – KACS has seen a 40 percent increase in the number of families who request the agency’s services.

In the days and weeks following the devastation of Hurricane Ida in September of 2021, KACS dipped deeply into its budget to pay for hotel stays for those whose dwellings were severely flooded at the Avondale Apartments.

Hard against this reality, nearly all of KACS’ $2.9 million budget revenue comes from donations from individuals, businesses, sponsorships and faith-based organizations; grants; fundraising events; and Chester County government.

In marked contrast, perhaps the most inspiring sight in southern Chester County currently visible – one that best imagines a new tomorrow for its many communities, families, students and schools – is the emerging structure that will be known as the Kennett Library & Resource Center, on State Street in Kennett Square. If there is a second story to how this new library will serve as a major resource for education, communication and civic pride, it is found in the dedication and vision of the Library’s Board of Directors and its “Imagine a Place” campaign staff that has raised over $18 million toward its $21.7 million goal.

In the Library’s successful public sector campaign, it appealed to all of the seven municipalities the Library serves to contribute what became an accumulated $2.4 million donation toward the construction of the new facility – that included Kennett Square Borough and the townships of Pennsbury, Pocopson, East Marlborough, Newlin, West Marlborough, and yes, New Garden and Kennett.

As spelled out in its 57-page 2020 impact study, the Library’s fundraising campaign efforts have been due in part by the power of its message that looks at the new Library from an economic and socio-economic view, municipality by municipality.

On pages 4 and 5 of KACS’ latest annual impact report, there is a map of southern Chester County that measures the truest impact of the agency. On it are hundreds of small dark blue dots, one for every household who receives assistance from KACS. With each passing year – as the economic pendulum continues to turn in directions still unknown – the dots on the map of southern Chester County will likely continue to grow in number, and with it, so will the need to feed more families, house more families and teach more families.

It is time that our municipalities – in recognition of their residents who benefit from the tireless services of KACS – enact an across-the-board annual line item system of contribution to Kennett Area Community Service, one that encompasses each of the key areas that the agency serves.

It is time that all of our municipalities recognize and address not just the future impact of what will become our community’s greatest library, but the future impact of our greatest resource.

The dignity of human life.

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