- Last Updated on 11:41 AM 04/23/12
- BY DALLAS K. WESTON/SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE
A small group of citizens based in Nelson is on a mission to help others. The Tri-County Benefit Committee serves those who need assistance in Halifax and Mecklenburg in Virginia and Granville County in North Carolina.
“We’re just a small group,” said Dale Nelson, founder of the group. “It started about eight years ago. Some of us got together to raise money for a liver transplant for a local guy. He couldn’t get a liver and passed away. The money was left available, so we started helping other people with medical needs,” said Nelson.
Nelson explained that even with good insurance, a major illness can be expensive.
“There are a lot of things that aren’t covered by insurance,” pointed out Nelson. “People with cancer or people who need transplants have to go in for treatments, sometimes twice a week.
There are lots of transportation expenses — gas and eating and one thing and another. Those things aren’t covered by insurance. We’re here to try and help the people who need a little help.”
Although the group started off assisting those with medical needs, the group has expanded its reach and now helps anyone who needs a little assistance during a tough time.
“Another thing we do,” said Nelson, “if we pick up a paper and see where someone’s house has burned down, we try to be there that day with a check to help out with clothes and food, a motel, whatever they need. These people need help right then, and that’s what we want to do.”
According to Nelson, the flagging economy has increased calls for help for the group.
“We are seeing more people in need,” said Nelson. “We have more and more people calling, asking for help with their light bills or their water bills. We would like to help everyone, and if we were rich, we would,” said Nelson sadly, “but it’s gotten to a place where we’re having to turn people down.”
The group, consisting of 15 voting members, meets the first Sunday of each month and decides what fundraising projects to undertake. At these meetings, the group also goes over the applications they have received.
“We try to look at what the needs are, what the situations are, what we can do,” said Nelson.
When asked why he spends his time working to help strangers, Nelson explained why he formed the group.
“I don’t like to talk about myself, but I was a truck driver,” said Nelson. “I had a heart attack in Sanford, Florida, and I know what it’s like. I know what people are up against.”
Although the group is unable to help everyone, they do what they can.
“Last week nine people received money,” said Nelson. “And this year, we did something a little different for Christmas. We bought toys for four families. They had bad situations, and Christmas was going to be hard. They paid their bills, and we bought the toys for the kids.”
The group, which receives no government funding of any sort, relies on fundraising projects for the money they distribute and the projects they take on.
“We cook a lot of stews,” laughed Nelson. “We do foxhunts in Creedmore, N.C. and car shows. We had a food booth at the Halifax County Fair this year. We do anything we can to make a dime. We just finished a great raffle,” said Nelson. “For 12 weeks in a row, we gave away hunting supplies — all sorts of hunting equipment. Some of it was donated, but most we had to buy. It worked well. It was a great raffle for us.”
The group meets the first Sunday of each month planning fundraisers and looking over applications for assistance.
“We look at the applications that come in and see what the needs are for that month, what the situations are and what we can do.”
Folks needing a little assistance, said Nelson, are invited to call him at (434) 738-7623.
“I send them a short application they can return by mail. Then,” said Nelson, “it gets brought up before the committee at our meeting on the first Sunday of the month. In extreme situations,” added Nelson, “we can speed up the process if we need to.”
The group now, according to Nelson, is looking for donations and volunteers but wants to keep membership to the current level.
“We do want to grow,” explained Nelson, “but we don’t want to grow too fast. We’re learning as we go, and we don’t want to overextend ourselves. We certainly can use donations, and there are a lot of times when we need volunteers for fundraisers. That can be a big help. If a volunteer gives us half a day, it can mean so much.”
At a time when many people are feeling the pinch of a down economy, Nelson said the group was grateful for all donations and volunteers.
“And,” he added, “we’re completely non-profit. Every dime we raise we give away.”
According to Jeff King, public relations spokesperson for the group, the group also works to assist in paying for prescription medications for chronically ill patients.
The group, he adds, has raised over $25,000 over the past two years and assisted more than 20 families in the three county area it serves.