Shiloh center might receive aid for roof repairs

$7,000 grant would not cover cost of food pantry
Mae Green, left, and Cheryl Gilchrist share a laugh as they play a card game at Shiloh Community Center, Jan. 31

The Augusta Commission might give Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center $7,000 in federal funding to repair its leaking roof, but that falls short of what the center needs to keep its food pantry open.

The pantry, which has served the Augusta area since 1977, faces closing by March. It would be the first time in 30 years the community center has cut services, said Elizabeth Jones, Shiloh's executive director. Shiloh, a private nonprofit, also runs senior programs and after-school tutoring.

The commission's administrative services committee on Monday asked its staff to try to recoup money from a contractor that improperly installed Shiloh's roof in 1999.

If that fails, the committee would ask for a recommendation on whether to fix the roof using federal money. The money could be reallocated from another program, which is apparently defunct.

Despite the offer, Jones said she was disappointed. The center had asked the commission for $55,000 toward repairs and operations this year.

The city faces a $9 million budget deficit, and City Administrator Fred Russell has said the only way to help Shiloh would be to take money away from something else in the budget.

Shiloh's donor contributions have dropped 30 percent during the recession, Jones has said, and the center has used up its reserves. Shiloh cannot conduct a food drive because it participates in Golden Harvest Food Bank's brown bag service, and that program's rules prohibit such fundraising.

"We really do need the funding," Jones said. "I would not have asked if I had another way to get it."

The church across the street from Shiloh distributes food, but only for two hours on Saturday, according to Jones. Shiloh's pantry is open five days a week and people show up from all over the area to get help. It would be a tough time to lose the pantry, she said.

"After the economy got worse, it's families now that come," she said. "It's not just transient men and women. It's husbands with children."

The committee also asked staffers to continue to look for money that could go toward helping Shiloh.

Non profit community center struggles to serve