CIRCLEVILLE — After nearly two decades of serving the community at the Pickaway County Emergency Clearing House, Mary Easter has hung up her apron for the final time.
Easter, 86, retired earlier this month from her role as volunteer executive director of the Pickaway County Emergency Clearinghouse. Easter started in 2002 as a volunteer. Her service started when here now late husband, Jerry Easter, was on the board as president.
“They had a paid director then and I helped her,” she mentioned. “He died in 2004 and was president when he passed away and she passed away, and that’s when I said I think we can try this on a volunteer system.”
Easter said her suggestion came in the wake of financial issues the organization had then.
“They were going to have to do something and [the former director] got sick and that was a great chance to try it out,” she added. “It’s worked out very well.”
Easter said, for her, the best part of the job is knowing that she got to help people.
“You get a close relationship with them and see a lot of their problems,” she said. “It was very rewarding for them and us when you saw positive changes in their lives. Some of them got over the hump and some didn’t.”
Easter said she’d also miss her volunteers.
“I didn’t know 90 percent of them before I started volunteering, but fortunately never had a spat or falling out of any kind,” she remarked. “They’re a wonderful group of people and quite a few from when I started are still there.”
Easter said one of the challenges for her and Clearinghouse moving forward is that people just don’t know that it exists.
“We go out and speak at different groups and you’d be surprised, even after all these years, the amount of people that don’t know about it,” she explained. “There are also a lot of people who are eligible and don’t think or know they are. That’s the hardest part is getting to those people, especially widows and widowers and people that can’t get a job. They have some income and they think it’s sufficient, but it isn’t. We encourage them to sign up.”
Easter said she wants people to know that there’s nothing to be ashamed of when you need help.
“There’s people right now that are in positions that they never thought they’d be in,” she added.
Easter said things have changed over the years in terms of sheer numbers, but not much else.
“In 2005, they hit 100 families a month,” she commented. “For the last several years, we’ve had almost 600 a month. Right now, they’re in a slow down and I think that’s because people have been told not to go out or they’re afraid to go out. We see these lines in New York and all these places we thought it would go up more.”
During the pandemic, things have certainly changed, Easter said.
“They don’t let people inside and everyone is wearing a mask,” she said. “They also don’t handle pencils and paper any more than they have to. They’ve changed how they’ve done things.”
Easter said working there has really put her in a different mindset.
“You really don’t know what they’re going through,” she commented. “You don’t know if that person has been abused that day or what. A lot of them have been through a lot. They’ll often say the lord has been good to me; I’m better off than some. They still have a good outlook.”