By Gerry Bartnicke
I have been reading articles and letters concerning consolidation of local governments, including suggestions that we should do away with townships. In particular, I was not pleased with an article from someone who should know the value of townships, the supervisor of Avon Township.
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I was interested to see that on the Avon Township website, the supervisor announced that use of their food pantry had increased 300 percent. Seems to me that the people using that pantry see a need for their township. I feel compelled to respond to these articles and letters, since I am in a position to talk about the value of my township, having been serving township residents for 26 years in the Disability and Senior Services departments.
I have worked for Schaumburg Township since 1984, and have had the pleasure of assisting many persons with disabilities and senior citizens who had no place else to turn for help. That's right --- no place else to turn. We do not duplicate existing services. There are not enough services to help these two populations to begin with, and many existing services are threatened with dissolution. Individuals needing our help could go to Social Security (if they can get to the closest office) or to the office of rehabilitation services (again if they can secure transportation) but these two agencies would provide information only in their particular areas. Frequently, we have people call who need additional information on senior services who were referred to us by the local Social Security office. At the township, we are knowledgeable and informed on a great variety of benefits, programs and services and share that knowledge daily with our township residents.
Our annual town meeting was Tuesday night. Every year I am disappointed that more residents do not attend this meeting where they would hear a very good explanation of the services and programs their township provides. They would also see that we have a balanced budget every year.
Here are some other facts from 2010 that Schaumburg Township residents could have heard if they'd attended:
• The General Assistance Department: 32,858 client contacts; 4,406 people used the pantry; 1,679 energy assistance applications filed for clients; 416 holiday baskets distributed.
• The Assessor's Office: During the month of December, 2,900 residents came to the office for help after receiving property tax bills; during January 2011, 5,400 residents visited the office after receiving their property tax reassessment.
• Disability Services: 7,869 calls, 5,392 emails; assisted 2,016 clients with prescription drug counseling and programs; helped 409 residents get amplified telephones.
• Youth Department: 21,696 client contacts through counseling and the teen center.
These are just some of the statistics about township activities last year, but they give an idea of the level of activity and the number of residents who need our services. We who work here know the numbers represent people who depend on us to sustain or improve their quality of life and many times take care of their dire emergency situations.
This past year, thousands of homeowners came to our township to appeal their property taxes. Cook County closed appeals office in the suburbs a year ago. Without our local township office, these residents would have had to go to the office in Chicago to appeal.
The General Assistance Office has been kept busy helping the unemployed, who have unfortunately become a large part of our community in the current economic downturn.
Unfortunately, you don't realize the importance of our township services until you need them, but many of your neighbors do take advantage of the help their township provides during their time of need.
Gerry Bartnicke is director of disability and senior services for Schaumburg Township.