Kennett Area Community Service reports progress, rising numbers at annual meeting02/07/2024 02:49PM ● By Richard Gaw
The more than 100 residents, elected officials and local stakeholders who attended the Kennett Area Community Service’s (KACS) annual meeting on Jan. 31 received a rolling wave of encouraging news about the agency’s progress from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 31, 2023, a period that was highlighted by the success of its empowerment programs and a 45 percent increase in revenues from individual, business, faith-based and sponsorship donations.
The event, which was held at the Kennett Borough Building, provided a summary of KACS outreach and impact that saw the agency provide services for 2,102 households (6,1010 individuals) and generate a value of $2.4 million throughout 22 municipalities in southern Chester County, including a high of $432,618 to New Garden Township alone.
During that period, the KACS Food Cupboard serviced 1,911 households with 820,841 pounds of food and supplies that were distributed by the agency’s 184 volunteers, who contributed more than 10,000 hours of time to the Cupboard.
Food and supply source donations also rose significantly over the past recorded period of 2021-22 that saw donations from the Chester County Food Bank increase 48 percent and donations from local grocery stores rise 42 percent.
“We have gotten a little better at communicating our message, and I think telling the truth all of the time and telling the story about the work we do appeals to people, so the more people are hearing about it, the more support we are getting,” said KACS Executive Director Leah Reynolds.
In its mission to end the cycle of poverty in the community, KACS’ Bridges out of Poverty initiative graduated 14 students in its “Getting Ahead” program and 8 students from its “Financial Empowerment” classes. From Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 31, 2023, 7 “Getting Ahead” students lowered their debt; 7 opened a new bank account; 6 increased their income; 2 began a new job; and 2 earned additional certifications. In addition, 81 volunteers attended a Bridges Out of Poverty training session.
On May 1, 2023, KACS received designation as a Community Housing Development Organization that now empowers the agency to invest in residential properties in its service area in order to convert them into permanent, sustainable and affordable housing for its constituents. Through that initiative, KACS acquired 1,408 existing affordable housing units for 3,342 individuals.
As part of its housing initiative, KACS has acquired an existing affordable house for a low-income family and is working to grow the number of affordable housing opportunities in Southern Chester County.
While the expense side of the agency’s ledger saw a $4.02 million in payment – the majority to its Food Cupboard ($2.2 million) and its Social Services ($769,226) – KACS saw a revenue of $4.32 million during the period that included $1.1 million in donations from individuals, businesses, sponsorships and faith-based organizations and an additional $1.8 million in food donations.
In conjunction with increased revenues and donations and the flourishing success of its housing and educational initiatives, the meeting introduced what will soon become its largest and most expensive challenge: the construction of its new home on West Cypress Street in the Kennett Square Borough. Estimated at $15 million, construction of the facility -- situated on both Kennett and New Garden townships on 5.6 acres donated by the Pia family – is expected to begin in late 2024 with a projected opening in late 2025. The agency is currently seeking financial support from the government and from the private sector.
In addition to being able to consolidate its services and its Food Cupboard – including the opening of a food distribution warehouse collaboration with the Chester County Food Bank -- the new KACS facility will also dedicate a portion of its space to partner agencies that will enable individuals and families to access a variety of services in one location.
“Together, we can build hope for a sustainable future for KACS and much needed infrastructure for the non-profit community that helps make Chester County an amazing place to live,” said board member and former board president Lynn Majarian. “Thanks in advance for your help, your support and any donations you may give us to help us build this essential building.”
Reynolds said that raising the necessary funding for the new building will manifest itself in the form of sharing the narrative of the agency with the residents, businesses and potential donors in the southern Chester County area.
“We know the challenges are this: Everybody thinks that we’re just a food cupboard, so communicating that we are not and describing the other components of what we do will be crucial,” she said. “It will be on us to tell those stories in every sector of the communities we serve and tell the stories not just in writing but through video and other images.”
To learn more about making a donation to the cost of construction of the new building, visit www.KACSImpact.org. The KACS Empty Bowls event will take place on Feb. 23 at the St. Michael Lutheran Church, 109 Doe Run Road, in Unionville.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].