LOWER MAKEFIELD >> The Makefield Women’s Association during a Zoom meeting on April 7 presented thousands of dollars to five Bucks County and Yardley-based charities and organizations.

The donations came as very welcome news for the recipients, which struggled through the pandemic to raise money for their many projects and services.

“The last year has been extremely difficult for everyone in Bucks County, especially non-profit organizations such as our beneficiaries,” said MWA President Jennifer Ketler. “The public health restrictions prevented us from having our major fundraiser in 2020, so we are extremely proud to have been able to raise money that we can use to support our local non-profit organizations. While it is always meaningful for MWA to give back to our community, it had special significance this year.”

In total, the women raised an amazing $8,500 to give away to its beneficiaries and scholarship winners despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Beneficiary chair Ellen Kirsch announced the grants, which will benefit many of the groups and organizations near and dear to the MWA’s membership.

“Every year the MWA membership nominates local nonprofit organizations, information and discussions occur, and ultimately they are voted upon,” said Kirsch. “Many of the beneficiaries this year are organizations that we have supported over the years as we appreciate their good work for the community.

“We are very pleased and proud to award our fundraising proceeds to our 2021 beneficiaries,” added Kirsch. “This is my favorite meeting of the year because it’s an opportunity to meet representatives from each of our beneficiary organizations and learn more about what they are doing and their plans going forward.”

Sharing in the grant awards this year are A Woman’s Place, the Family Service Association’s Bucks County Homeless Shelter, the Bucks County Housing Group’s Community Food Pantry at Penndel, Bucks For Kids and the Yardley-Makefield Fire Company.

In addition, the women presented scholarships to Pennsbury High School seniors Alexandria “Lexie” Snyder and Elizabeth Abt-Fraioli.

Described as compassionate and determined, Snyder is the President of the Pennsbury High School Student Council, an Honors Student and a member of the varsity lacrosse team. In addition, she volunteers with the MS Foundation and at her local library. After graduation, the lifelong Yardley resident will attend the University of Pittsburgh to pursue a career in nursing.

Described as responsible, motivated and kind, Abt-Fraioli is a member of the Pennsbury High School Marching Band and recently competed in the state Thespian Tech Challenge. She is a National Merit Program Commended student and she has volunteered with the American Red Cross. When the pandemic struck, she learned to sew, making masks for her family and friends. Following graduation, Abt-Fraioli will be attending Temple University as a pre-Med student.

The annual scholarships are awarded to female graduating Pennsbury High School seniors who are in need of assistance to further their education. Recommended by the Pennsbury High School Guidance Department, the individuals must show scholastic excellence and community involvement.

The MWA has supported A Woman’s Place for years. The Bucks County nonprofit provides services and shelter to battered and abused women and children.

“I am blown away with what you guys do,” AWP Executive Director Maryanne Lynch told the MWA. “You guys are a powerhouse. Thank you for supporting us and the other systems and agencies that work with us.

“I wish the news was better, but unfortunately it’s been a difficult year for domestic violence as well,” Lynch told the women. “Overall nationally, violence is up about 10 percent. That’s certainly has been the case in Bucks County. Year over year, our calls are up about 38 percent, which has been pretty intense. The cases are more intense. They are more layered. They are more complicated.”

Since the pandemic started, the doors to A Woman’s Place have remained opened and the hotline has been on, said Lynch. “We are answering the call 24-7. It has been challenging. But our great advocates for the shelter have been there to answer the phones.”

To comply with the six foot separation, they are operating at half capacity at its shelter itself and supplementing the space with hotel rooms “to keep them safe and socially distanced.”

The shelter typically holds seven families. “Lately, we have been able to house as many as 14, which is encouraging to be able to provide shelter to that many.”

Lynch also reported “great results” with its new Rapid Rehousing program. “We are now able to move moms and kids into apartments quickly rather then having them stay at the shelter for a long time. We just placed six families in the last three months through that programming.”

Lynch also reported that A Woman’s Place was also forced to cancel its big fundraising event - its Chocolate Lovers Fantasy. But put it on you calendar now - March 26, 2022. Chocolate Lovers 25th Anniversary 2.0 will be happening.”

Another longtime beneficiary of the MWA is the the Bucks County Housing Group’s Community Food Pantry at Penndel.

“This has been a challenging year, but we have been able to stay open during the entire pandemic in order to serve our client families,” said BCHG’s said Trish Rowen. “And that’s because of the wonderful support from our volunteers who do 90 percent of the work and because of the wonderful community support from groups like yours with financial donations and food drives.”

Thanks to an influx of grant funding and financial donations, Rowen said they are able to give out 60 pounds of food to its clients, including four prepackaged bags brimming with perishable and non-perishable food items. They have also been able to increase the number of dairy items, including milk, eggs, butter, cheese and yogurt, along with fruit and vegetables and to provide a better selection of meat products.

The pantry currently serves between 100 and 150 families each week, or about 1800 people each month.

“We have seen an increase in the number of clients impacted by the pandemic as well as taking care of our usual clients,” said Rowen. “It’s been challenging, but it’s also been very positive.”

The MWA has also supported the Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter for many years. Today, the shelter at Five Points in Bristol is operated by the Family Association of Bucks County.

“We are very grateful for the MWA’s support,” said Lisa Clayton, Family Services COO. “It has been a tough year. We have managed to keep our pantry open and expand it. We managed to make all of our services virtual - case management, patient therapy, support for our opioid youth disorder program. We’ve been going strong since day one. We hit the ground running.”

According to Murielle Kelly, the Director of Housing Services for FSA, due to the pandemic, the shelter had to change how it operates. “We are now operating at two locations serving more clients, including half at the shelter and the other half at a hotel.

“We were serving 75 residents. We are now up to 100 people per night that we are servicing. We’ve been open the entire time. With all the procedures we put in place we have managed to stay safe. No one has gotten sick, which is an amazing feat. Prayers, cleaning, everything helps.”

In addition to the grant, the MWA supports the shelter in many other ways. They recently donated food, Easter baskets, coloring books and crayons to the shelter.

Larry Newman, the president of the Yardley-Makefield Fire Company, also joined the Zoom meeting to personally thank the women for their many, many years of support for the fire company.

Like many organizations, Newman said the past year has had its challenges with the pandemic changing the way the company conducts its operations.

A cleaning company comes into the fire station twice a week to wipe everything down. And everyone who’s inside the fire house must wear a mask.

In addition, if the firefighters enter a building where there’s a Covid positive, afterwards the company must decontaminate the firefighters, their gear and also their trucks.

“That’s not so much fun at 2 in the morning,” said Newman.

Covid also had an impact on the company’s available responders.

During the course of the year, 12 of its volunteers either contracted COVID or were exposed to someone with the virus forcing them to quarantine and impacting the company’s available volunteer force.

The pandemic also forced the company to cancel its biggest event of the year, its hugely popular fire prevention week open house. The event typically draws between 800 to 1000 people who attend.

The pandemic also put a temporary hold to any kind of socializing inside the fire station and forced the cancellation of its annual awards banquet for two straight years.

Looking ahead, Newman said the immediate future is looking a little brighter with 43 of its members now vaccinated twice, giving the firefighters more of a feeling of safety and protection.

On another positive note, the company has just announced the purchase of a new $1.3 million ladder truck, which will respond out of the Yardley station. The company sold its old ladder truck to the Quakertown, N.J. Fire Company for $400,000.

On another bright note, despite the pandemic four new members have joined the department’s ranks, which is very welcome news for the company, said Newman.

One of its newer beneficiaries is Bucks For Kids, a nonprofit that raises funds to support kids and teens under the care of Bucks County Children & Youth.

“I can’t thank you enough for all the help you have given to us,” executive director Nancy Larkin Taylor told the women. “As the Bucks County Children & Youth Social Services Agency goes so we go.“

Since 1991, Bucks for Kids has been funding extracurricular and enrichment activities for Bucks County kids in foster care, including summer camp, sports fees, music/art lessons, class trips, school supplies, tutoring, laptops, clothing and beds.

Unfortunately, said Taylor, the pandemic has put many of those activities on hold.

“Everything is backed up due to the pandemic, but as soon as the gates open we hope to have more summer camps, trumpet lessons, and all kinds of stuff,” said Taylor.

Among its newest projects is an Age Out program, which will fund the wrap-around needs of foster children as they head off to college, whether they need cars, books or lab equipment.

“We’re trying to make it so the obstacles they are facing are lessened,” said Taylor.

Bucks For Kids is also working on a project to install a circular bench to honor Children & Youth on the grounds of the Bucks County Administration Center in Doylestown.

“We hope that when kids become adopted or when they have something to celebrate and they go to the Courthouse to the Orphans Court, they can go to the bench and celebrate,” said Taylor.

The MWA is a local nonprofit composed of a diverse group of women dedicated to raising funds and providing services to individuals in need. MWA supports programs that benefit both the local community and worthy humanitarian organizations.

MWA invites any woman in the local area to join them in serving the community. To attend a meeting or for more information, email president@makefieldwomensassociation.org

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