Rockdale Emergency Relief Director Ashley Roesler describes the plight of a family her organization recently aided. A man, with a wife and three young children to support, asked RER for assistance after being laid off from his job. RER helped the family get financially stable and the man's company rehired him after a few months. Misfortune struck again when medical bills piled up as his wife battled cancer. Today, RER continues to provide support for the family.
This type of scenario is typical of the families for which RER "provides a hand up rather than a hand out," as the organization's motto states. Established in 1967, RER is a nonprofit organization that offers short-term financial assistance to people in Rockdale County threatened with losing their homes due to unforeseen circumstances. RER also maintains a food bank.
Since the economy took a turn for the worse, Roesler and other RER staff have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of people coming to them in need of assistance. The number of clients using RER's Housing Retention and Financial Assistance Program has increased by 169 percent. Numbers of people using the food bank have shot up even more dramatically with a 300 percent increase.
"With general living expenses rising, it's harder for people, especially those experiencing setbacks in employment, to support themselves," Roesler said.
Roesler said the majority of the clients turning to RER for assistance need help with their housing situation.
"There has been a more pronounced amount of people who need assistance with mortgages than months, even years, past," she said.
With RER helping more residents than ever, Roesler is asking the public to reach out and support the organization through its Run for Relief Dinner, so named because the dinner is a prelude to a 5K trail run/walk RER is holding two days after the dinner.
The Run for Relief Dinner, which takes place at 6 p.m. March 26 in the Carriage Room at the Georgia International Horse Park, will include a silent auction featuring restaurant gift cards, professional services and spa treatments. Musical entertainment will be provided by the three-piece band, Drive Time. Local author Evie Sweet-Hurd will also be on hand to sign copies of her book, "His Name Was Donn - My Brother's Letters from Vietnam."
The price of attending this year's RER dinner has dropped by a third compared to last year, with the cost being $50 a ticket. Roesler said the decision to drop the ticket cost was made "in observance of the economy and the fact we recognize the need to be sensitive to our donors' desire to help other programs as well."
On the heels of the dinner is the Run for Relief 5K trail run/walk and one-mile fun run, held during the Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 a.m. at the steeplechase/mountain bike trail on the grounds of the horse park. The 5K is presented in part by runandseegeorgia.com and active.com. The route for the run meanders through a shaded area on the horse park's trails and participants will receive a t-shirt.
"It will be very well-organized and an all-around good run. We hope all runners and walkers will join us for this first-annual event," said Beverly Sparkmon, a long-time supporter of RER who plans to join in the 5K.
"I support RER to help people remain self-sufficient so they won't become dependent on long-term assistance. Helping people help themselves is the best way to accomplish this."
Up until March 20, an entry for the Run for Relief is $20 for those age 12 to adult; $10 for children 11 and under; and $50 for a family of four. Starting March 21, an adult entry fee is $25; a child fee remains $10; and the family cost is $60. On race day, registration begins at 7 a.m., the one-mile fun run begins at 8 a.m. and the 5K at 8:30 a.m.
Roesler said the goal is to raise $30,000 from the dinner and $10,000 from the 5K run, with all profits being donated to RER's Housing Retention and Financial Assistance Program.
"Because we are dependent on the community's donations and support, we are going to experience the same things other businesses do," Roesler said. "We have to decide what we can and can't do for charitable impact with more and more people coming to us."
Still, Roesler remains hopeful.
"Knowing that I have such a great staff and being a part of such a cohesive community, we will see it through and we'll be able to help people who come to us," she said.
For more information, call RER at 770-922-9210 or
SideBar: If you go
· What: Run for Relief Dinner, Rockdale Emergency Relief fundraiser
· When: 6 p.m. March 26
· Where: Carriage Room at the Georgia International Horse Park
· Cost: Tickets are $50 each. Call RER at 770-922-9210 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
· What: Run for Relief 5K trail run/walk and one-mile fun run, Rockdale Emergency Relief fundraiser
· When: March 28; registration at 7 a.m., fun run at 8 a.m. and 5K at 8:30 a.m.
· Where: Steeplechase/
mountain bike trail
· Cost: Up until March 20, entry for the run is $20 for age 12 and up, $10 for age 11 and under; and $50 for a family of four. Starting March 21, an adult is $25; a child fee is $10; and the family cost is $60. To enter, call RER at 770-922-9210 or e-mail email@example.com.