A gift of compassion for Yukon

Non-profit service agencies rely on public’s generosity as need rises

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The Rev. Tim Baer (second from right) and Kyle Gossett (right) of Yukon’s Grace Church-Episcopal demonstrate their support for Compassionate Hands, represented by van driver Bud Kuykendall and Director Joanne Riley. Church leaders recently presented generous Christmas gifts to their outreach partners in the community. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar

Senior Staff Writer

2020 has been an extraordinary year – and that goes for non-profit agencies trying to serve those facing a job loss, utility cutoff or eviction during economic uncertainty.

COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of many special events and fund-raisers in Yukon, and this has hurt local service groups that count on the public’s generosity to help people who are struggling.

Compassionate Hands, a local ministry that has helped residents facing temporary crisis since 1994, has relied more than ever on Yukon’s trademark giving nature.

Joanne Riley

“We’ve had to cancel all of our fundraisers this year,” Director Joanne Riley reported. “The support of the churches, businesses and individuals is what’s kept us afloat so we can help this community.”

Compassionate Hands has seen an outpouring of giving after nearly 1,000 people received its annual year-end letter.

One example of that support came Dec. 16 when leaders of Yukon’s Grace Church-Episcopal presented Christmas gifts to their outreach partners helping people in need.

“Compassionate Hands is a friend of Grace Church and we’re so grateful for all you do in our community,” the Rev. Tim Baer told Riley. “We’re so grateful for all the help you give to the Yukon residents.”

Fr. Baer, vicar at Grace Church, said the church’s annual 2020 gift to Compassionate Hands totaled $5,000.

Riley told Baer – a past Compassionate Hands’ board member – that he’s “been a big part of this for a long time.”

Compassionate Hands provides rent and utility assistance, medications, and personal care items.

“This month we served over 30 families with a total of almost 80 people,” Riley said. “We’ve been so busy.”

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‘PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING’

The need for help has increased considerably in 2020 as more Yukon-area residents than ever try to make ends meet.

“People are struggling because their unemployment benefits have been cut or drastically reduced,” Riley explained. “Or they’re having trouble finding jobs in their field, particularly if they were in the service industry.

“So, the bills have just accumulated, and now they’re facing utility cutoffs and evictions.”

Compassionate Hands also offers an accessible Care-A-Van transportation service to take the elderly and disabled residents to medical appointments and personal errands. This averages 200 rides monthly.

“We have one young lady who suffered a head injury who attends Canadian Valley Technology Center,” Riley shared. “We’re taking her and picking her up every day in the van. This frees her mother up, so she can go ahead and work.”

Dedicated supporters help sustain Compassionate Hands through large annual gifts.

“We have a lot of people who are our great donor base,” Riley said. “Every year, we can expect a year-end check – anywhere from $100 to $3,000.

“Ten to 15 local churches give much more than $1,000 a year. The churches pledge what they’re going to give, and they have been very generous. Some gave to us earlier in the year because they know how tough 2020 has been. Then we have some businesses that give more than $1,000 that we recognize for having a generous heart.”

With such an economic crisis facing so many people, even a $5 or $10 donation counts.

“It all stays in Yukon to help your neighbors here,” Riley shared. “It’s all based on what you’re called to give and what’s in your heart to give to help others.

“My favorite donation that I’ve received so far came from somebody we helped not that long ago. It wasn’t much, but it touched me because she just wanted to do something to help us out.”

Learn more by calling 354-9591 or visiting compassionatehandsyukon.com