Chris Yoder

Yoder

More than 350 utility customers in Defiance are participating in a local charitable organization’s donation program.

The “Helping Hands” program was initiated almost two years ago by the Defiance Area Foundation (DAF) with the city municipal government’s help.

Participating city water and sewer customers agree to round up their monthly utility bills to the next dollar. The difference is turned over to the DAF to be used in the future — once it generates a more substantial sum — for charitable causes.

According to Defiance Finance Director John Lehner, as of Thursday the program has raised $1,901.66 since its inception in July 2017. Funds are sent quarterly to the foundation, he explained.

Lehner noted that as of Thursday 358 utility customers — or 5.4 percent of the total — are participating in the program. The number fluctuates each month, he commented, “but has been steady since the earliest days of the program.”

The participation level “is only a little better than half the original target, but arguably worth maintaining the program,” noted Lehner. “After some more time has passed, that will ultimately be the DAF’s call to make.”

Organizers of the seven-year program had aimed to raise $25,000, Lehner explained, or about $500 per quarter. The amount generated however, has been roughly $250 per quarter.

Defiance Area Foundation president Chris Yoder is hoping for additional participation in the future.

“We’re thankful for the partnership with the city and the community,” she said. “We’re hopeful that more people will get involved and sign up for the program. It benefits all of Defiance County.”

A sign-up form for the program is available at the city’s website (www.cityofdefiance.com) by assessing the utilities tab, while interested persons also can call a member services representative at 419-782-1946.

The plan is to continue raising funds before money is distributed for charitable purposes.

”We’re still building the fund,” said Yoder.

When enough funds are raised, a five-member board will consider requests. The board will be composed of the city utility income director, a DAF board member and three community members appointed by the mayor and approved by city council.

Some of the uses envisioned for the money include critical lifesaving equipment, rescue organizations, food banks, educational projects, child care programs and others, according to the DAF.

While the program will benefit persons with a variety of needs, it will not be used to pay water and sewer bills as this would then be self-serving, according to Lehner.

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