When the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry moves to the Hollywood Video building in Greenfield this fall, the Jewish Assistance Fund will go, too.
David Maretsky, president of JAF, which provides short-term crisis relief to individuals, announced Tuesday that his agency will share space with the food pantry.
He said Aryeh Sherman, executive director of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service, the parent agency of the food pantry, invited JAF, which already has office space in the JF&CS’ Bartlett Street facility, to be part of the move.
JAF will have its own office in the new building and share a conference room for meetings with its clients, according to Becky Abrams, executive director of the food pantry.
The two agencies already refer clients to one another, Abrams added. “It makes such great sense to have them in the building with us.”
“It synergizes what we do,” Maretsky said of the space sharing arrangement.
JAF also makes periodic donations to the pantry, Abrams said. In the past JAF has written two to three checks per year around the holidays, sometimes totaling as much as $12,000.
The demand for JAF’s services has increased since the economy collapsed in 2008. The agency dispensed $150,000 in relief last year and expects to give out as much as $200,000 in 2010.
JAF is also seeing 10 to 15 clients a week who request assistance, roughly twice as many as before the recession.
Some of the stories those clients tell are heartbreaking. One elderly woman brought her pill bottles to her meeting with Maretsky. All the pills in the bottles were cut in half.
“She said, ‘Mr. Maretsky, I can’t afford my medication so I cut them in half,’ ” he recalled her as saying. “ ‘This way, they last twice as long.’ ”
While JAF’s mission is to provide one-time short-term relief for people in need — the hope being they will soon overcome their financial problems — many of their clients are now forced to return for more help, according to Maretsky.
“Since 2008 the crisis is growing,” he said. “We’re seeing people who are chronic, coming back. … We’re giving more money each week than we have because the problem is greater.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)