Help for those trying to do back-to-school on a budget

What with school supplies, haircut, new clothes and other items, it can cost more than $100 to start school in the fall, a financial jolt many working families can’t handle.

To smooth things out to a mild bump, the Ashland Community Resource Center plans a Family Fun Fest at 4 p.m. Wednesday, offering an impressive range of gratis goods, services, recreation, food, gasoline and financial planning to make life easier for those challenged by low pay, joblessness, homelessness and the continuing recession in general, says ACRC director Leigh Madsen.

The three-hour event is at 570 Clover Lane in a parking lot ACRC shares with the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. Much of the mission of ACRC is to bring to Ashland many social help services that are concentrated in Medford so, Madsen says, this is a unique opportunity to access them all, including:

• School supplies — An array of free supplies that would cost around $90 retail.

• Haircuts, also free, by four volunteer hair stylists.

• Food — Fresh-made tacos and grilled vegetables will be served. Cooking demonstration by ACCESS about how to prepare the kinds of food you can get from the Food Bank. Ashland-Talent residents can sign up for the Food Bank or get their monthly box of non-perishables, enough to usually last four days. Free coffee, fruit and pastries (daily at ACRC).

• Money — DHS helps low-income families with children to qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and get cash assistance while they strive to become self-sufficient. The maximum benefit is $506 a month for family of three. They will also help with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). Umpqua Bank will help set up checking and savings accounts. Consumer Credit Counseling will help with credit rating rehabilitation.

• Services — Maslow Project will help with school supplies. They can register homeless children or families for services, including clothing, diapers, food and furniture.

• Recreation — Sidewalk chalk games. Lego games with Helga Motley. Door prizes for gasoline, clothing and food.

• Housing — ACCESS will help find affordable, income-based housing and enrollment in HUD projects available here through various agencies. Emergency housing grants and rent assistance are available.

On an on-going basis, ACRC hosts agents from the Maslow Project, Jackson County Health Department, the Veterans Administration and the Rogue Valley Veterans Community Organization. It also provides a shower van on site on Thursday and at Ashland’s First United Methodist Church on Tuesdays. It  alsooffers computer access for help finding work and housing.

“Anyone who wants to come may come to the Fest,” says Madsen. “They are all welcome. We provide all services that are offered at ACCESS in Medford.”

For a complete list of ACRC services, go to


John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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