What happens when the ones who help become the ones in need?
The economic climate is brewing a financial crisis for many national and local non-profit agencies as the need for their services continues to rise.
Pamela Colbert-Brumbaugh, executive director of United Way of Erie County, said many of the local non-profit agencies are seeing a steady increase in need.
People are seeking assistance for utilities, gasoline, rent, mortgages, prescription medications and food, she said.
"If the economy stays where it is at in this community, we're going to continue to see increasing need," Colbert-Brumbaugh said. "It does create this huge vicious cycle."
The summer months can be an especially difficult time for families with children because meals usually provided at school now have to be provided at home.
Ron Rude, executive director of the American Red Cross Firelands Chapter, said the agency is seeing a rising need for disaster relief services.
"June has been a very intense month for volunteer help," Rude said. "Some of it is simply happenstance because of the frequency of disaster."
The typical annual budget for disaster relief assistance for local families is $45,000. Rude anticipates that this year those costs will exceed $100,000. That increase is due in part to the fact that some families can no longer afford insurance.
"If the choice is between food and insurance, they're going to eat," Rude said.
Care and Share has seen an 18 percent increase in need compared to last year, said executive director Dan Ward. "We are seeing an increase in new applications," Ward said.
Ward said it's unusual for the agency to see an increase in new applications this time of year because there is more seasonal employment available.
Ward explained that many people have been laid off, and for the first time in their lives are really struggling to put food on the table.
"Their words are, 'we're embarrassed and we don't know what to do,'" Ward said.
Ward said the economic conditions of the entire country have contributed to the local problems.
The local support for non-profits such as the Red Cross has remained constant, but the growing level of need is quickly outpacing the level of support.
"Despite our economic problems locally, we have always had a very generous community, and I think they're trying very hard to support us and other non-profit organizations," Rude said. "We can all be very thankful we live in the community we do."
There are ways for people to help these agencies even if they don't have any money to spare. Colbert-Brumbaugh said a donation of time can be just as valuable.
"(The Red Cross) always saves money by having volunteers do part of our work," Rude said.
"We desperately need some new recruits (at Care and Share)," Ward said.