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Program in Indianola designed to help needy travelers, but low funds have prompted a pause

A fund to help travelers in need and passing through Indianola has been temporarily paused because funds are low. Organizers are raising money to resume it.

INDIANOLA, Iowa — If a traveler in need broke down or needed a place to stay while passing through Indianola, the faith-based Indianola Benevolence Fund used to be able to offer travelers one-time assistance. 

Larry Graves, a pastor and the treasurer for the Indianola Ministerial Association (IMA) which runs the benevolence fund, says now that fund is nearly empty. 

Typically how the program works is vouchers are handed out to only travelers. The Indianola Police Department distributes them to people who are struggling, only after doing a quick background check.

Police can give them to a traveler who ran out of gas, needs food or needs to spend a night in a local hotel but has no money. The recipient of the voucher then takes it to the place specified on the paper to redeem it 

"Then we [IMA] will go pick up the voucher and pay the business for the service used," Graves said. 

However, the fund is running low.

"We're down to about 250 dollars."

Because of the low funds, the benevolence fund is temporarily ceasing operations. 

It's a fund Graves and others on IMA said is very important to the area because they usually help several people a month. 

They helped 40 people in 2021 and 46 in 2020.

Donations for the program would come from between 20 to 25 churches in the area, with eight or nine giving regularly. 

But Tim Bonney, a pastor at a local church and the co-president on IMA, said the pandemic has impacted donations to fund.

"Some of the worship services that we normally conduct maybe have not been as well attended in the last couple of years or we had to do one that was totally online," he said. "So that may be affecting the giving that occurs when we can't quite gather the way that we're used to."

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To replenish the fund, Bonney and Graves are asking churches in the area to donate regularly or give a letter pledging a certain amount. 

There will be a special service in April for donations, and non-church members can send money to the IMA's P.O. Box. 

Lisa Parker, a pastor and secretary on IMA, said the group is hoping to raise enough money soon to serve travelers who might be in need during a season that is usually one of their busiest. 

"Right now it's cold out and I think that's especially where our concern is," she said. "[It's] that people might be coming through town, they run out of gas they are in some other point of crisis and it's dangerous to be out when it's this cold."

Graves said once the group raises $1,500 dollars, IMA will start operating the program again. But they hope to also get enough donations monthly to keep a minimum of $1,500 in the account so they don't have to stop helping people again.

You can donate by sending money to: Indianola Ministerial Association, P.O. Box 52 Indianola, Iowa 50125.

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