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Funding Cuts May Shutter N.C. Group Home For People With Disabilities

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As part of our Bearing Witness 2.0 project, the Huffington Post is rounding up compelling local stories about the victims of the recession.

Group homes for people with developmental disabilities in North Carolina are in danger of closing after the state reduced funding, reports Dwight Otwell for the Cherokee County Scout. Funding was cut to help fix a statewide budget crisis. "[The homes] are having to rethink every sheet of paper they use," said Yvonne Trent, a social worker in Cherokee County.

In Unaka, N.C., 12 men and women with learning and developmental disabilities live in Autumn Halls, a group home owned and operated by Will Hayes and his daughter, Shelly Debty. "If we can't take care of [the residents] and feed them I would rather shut the doors," said Hayes, who often works 18-hour days to make up for staff whose hours have been cut back. "We have had to scale back on everything a little bit at a time," Debty told the Scout. "If we closed I don't know where [the residents] would go."

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A paper mill owned by International Paper in Albany, Ore., stopped production on Tuesday after being in business for almost 55 years. KATU-TV's Melica Johnson reported that the closure "signaled the end of a way of life for generations of families." Two other television stations, KDRV-TV and KEZI-TV, both called the mill "the defining landmark" of Albany, and reported that many of the 270 workers have been there for decades.

"I'd say that at least 20 of us are at least second- and one third-generation employees here," Todd Dittmer, an employee for 13 years, told KATU cameras. Dittmer's father worked at the mill for 37 years.

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In Dana Point, Calif., Kerri Larson has aggressive cataracts, which in the past year has reduced her vision and rendered her unable to drive or read. Brianna Bailey reports for the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, that Larson, 39, lost her job -- and her health insurance -- in June when the company she worked for as an executive assistant went out of business. Her cataracts would be labeled a pre-existing condition, meaning insurers would not cover any of the medical costs to repair her eyes.

Larson is hoping that Gregg Feinerman, an eye surgeon in Newport Beach, will come to her aid. Feinerman runs the nonprofit Operation In-Sight, which preforms free eye surgeries and gives training and equipment to doctors in developing nations, and he recently extended his service to a handful of needy Orange County residents.

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When Jonathan Hall of Sterling, Mass., was laid off two years ago, he chose to volunteer abroad instead of looking for another job in the rough corporate market, reports Priyanka Dayal for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Hall, 27, now back home in the U.S., traveled and taught English from Tanzania to Russia. "I guess corporate America kind of took its toll on me" he told Dayal.

A number of international volunteer organizations are having an uptick in applicants in the recession. The International Volunteer Programs Association, comprised of 12 different organizations, has had more applications for its long-term programs. Executive Director Genevieve Brown told the paper that increase was due to "limited employment opportunities" at home.

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In Southern Indiana, police officers from Warrick County handed out gifts to about 150 children at a special lunch on Tuesday, reports the Evansville Courier & Press's Garret Mathews. The kids were from struggling families, and were selected by their school.

One child in attendance, 12-year-old Shelby Miller told the Courier & Press her story: "Mom lost her job, and there are four of us to take care of."


HuffPost readers: Seen a compelling local story? Have a neighbor going to bizarre lengths to get through the recession? Tell us about it! Email julian@huffingtonpost.com.


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