By JIMMY LAWTON
Bitter cold, holiday-strained wallets and frozen pipes are driving hundreds of St. Lawrence County residents to the Department of Social Services for help.
St. Lawrence County Social Services Director Chris Rediehs said more than 100 people came to his department for help Friday and a similar number visited Thursday.
“With cold weather we are seeing increased needs. There is a fear of utilities being shut off due to lack of payment, frozen water pipes and not enough food. It’s always tough this time of year,” he said. "We had 119 people here today and it was similar yesterday. It will probably be similar next week too.”
Rediehs says the substantial need is not altogether abnormal, but the ice storm, extremely cold temperatures and the recent holiday have caused a spike in people seeking help.
And while the county has a variety of resources at its disposal for providing aid, the availability dwindles quickly as need grows.
“The ice storm has really made it very difficult over the holidays. And it’s remained cold. There are a lot of people struggling,” he said.
Rediehs says providing assistance to so many people is a daunting task and that local neighborhood centers and other charities are working to keep people warm and fed as well.
“We are all doing the best we can with what we have,” he said.
Rediehs said it's times like these when the community should be looking after one another. He said community members interested in providing aid can donate to or volunteer at local charities and non-profits, but there are even simpler ways to contribute.
“One of the most important people things people can do right now is to check in on neighbors and people who are vulnerable. Make sure they have food and access to heat and water,” he said.
Rediehs said people tend to be generous in St. Lawrence County and that depending on the community, there are many options for finding help, or providing it.
“I think people in St. Lawrence County deserve credit. They did a great job taking care of each other during the storm and I think they are always eager to help,” he said.
For those in need of assistance or looking to provide some, a list of local charities and non-profits follows:
• Ogdensburg Area
Ogdensburg Neighborhood Center - 393-5561
St. Vincent de Paul 393-3930, 393- 6579
Salvation Army -393-3351
Catholic Charities 393-2255
• Canton Area
Canton Neighborhood Center 386-3541
Pierrepont Neighborhood Center 386-8311
Canton Church and Community Program 386-3534
Colton Neighborhood Center – 262-3175
• Potsdam Area
Potsdam Neighborhood Center - 265-3920
Parishville Neighborhood Center - 265-6180
Helping Hands of Potsdam – Tom Chappell 268-0633
Outreach program Norwood-Norfolk - 384 4818
Ministries of the North Country – 322-4271
• Massena Area
Massena Neighborhood Center – 764-0050
Massena Independent Living Center - 764 9442
Salvation Army – 769-5154
St. Vincent de Paul - 769 1200
• Gouverneur Area
Gouverneur Neighborhood Center - 287-3370
St. Lawrence County Development Program – 386-1102
Reachout of St. Lawrence County – 265-2420
Family Champions of the North Country 1-518-359-9110
St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services - 379-2111
North Country Pre-natal/Para-natal Council - 788-8533 ext 231