Local charities praise Bush’s aid plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Psychologist Diane Caspers, who works for Catholic Charities in Mankato, is willing to give President George W.

Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Psychologist Diane Caspers, who works for Catholic Charities in Mankato, is willing to give President George W. Bush a chance.

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&uot;Honestly, I did not have much confidence in the man,&uot; Caspers said. &uot;But now I’ll admit that I’m changing my thinking a bit.&uot;

Caspers said Bush might be on to something with his establishment Monday of a White House office that would distribute billions of dollars to charities to help their social-service programs over the next ten years.

&uot;Considering we don’t know any details at this point, I think it sounds really positive,&uot; Caspers said.

With the welfare reform measures of the last few years, Casper thinks that some responsibility for social work has already shifted to the faith-based organizations like Catholic Charities, International, the country’s largest non-profit social service network.

Catholic Charities offers counseling services out of a satellite office in Albert Lea.

&uot;There’s a lot of talk about all of this supposed prosperity out there, but that’s for only a relatively few people,&uot; Caspers said. &uot;There are still a lot of people who need help.&uot;

Joel Strom of Lutheran Social Services in Mankato had a similar reaction to Bush’s announcement. One of his first thoughts was the plan may relieve some of the fundraising burden off his employer, he said.

LSS offers programs from counseling and mental health services to adoption and foster care. But money is necessary to keep the programs afloat.

&uot;That is always one of my biggest concerns – making sure we have adequate funding,&uot; Strom said. &uot;I spend a good deal of time seeking money.&uot;

The president’s proposal, Strom said, is an acknowledgement of the effectiveness of private organizations that offer social programs. These groups are often the best advocates for people in need.

&uot;It could be a great social reform,&uot; Strom said. &uot;I think Bush is correctly placing his faith in the abilities of the charities to do good work.&uot;

As much as Strom approves of the idea, he fears the plan would establish a new bureaucratic system that would waste the funds in administrative red tape.

&uot;I would hope they would use existing channels to distribute the money,&uot; said Strom. &uot;It would be a shame if the money is wasted before it gets to the community level, and our organization already deals with enough paperwork.&uot;

Major David Logan of the Albert Lea Salvation Army said his organization has been cooperating with the federal government for a long time. In fact, through a federal fund called the Emergency Food and Shelter Board, the Salvation Army gets money to combat hunger and housing issues in communities struck by high unemployment and poverty.

&uot;I don’t think the concept of federal money for charities is new. If this is an expansion of that funding then I’m all for it,&uot; said Logan.

Logan hopes the money will be open ended, but even if it comes with a few conditions, it would still be used more effectively on a local level, Logan said.

&uot;Local people should be taking care of local people,&uot; Logan said. &uot;We’ve known that for years.&uot;