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SERVE to limit focus to Stafford

For nearly a decade, a Stafford County nonprofit has opened its doors and its cupboards to people in need from across the area.

But SERVE will have to limit its food pantry and financial help to residents of Stafford County.

“You want to help everybody,” Director Marilyn Stevens said. And you hear the stories and your heart just bleeds for everyone. So it’s really hard.”

People come to the Stafford Courthouse-based nonprofit agency from Fredericksburg and from Spotsylvania, Caroline, King George and Stafford counties, searching for help feeding their families and paying their bills.

But SERVE shows up in the budget of only one local government: Stafford County. Stevens tried to help the others by using money from the Rappahannock United Way.

But as more and more area residents sought help, she had to narrow her agency’s scope.

About 19 percent of SERVE’s 1,442 clients came from outside Stafford last year, Stevens said.

In that year, 468 new clients came to SERVE. Some of the new people are military members who can’t afford to feed their families, Stevens said.

And while hunger ignores locality boundaries, Stevens knew she had to do something in order to feed the rising numbers of families seeking help.

Starting July 1, the agency will feed senior citizens from across the area but will help only other people who live in Stafford County.

“It’s going to make a big hole in every community,” Stevens said. “I hate that it’s going to hurt, and I know it is, but we can only do what we do for so long without their support.”

Amy Umble: 540/735-1973