By KAREN KANTNER
Assistant Managing Editor
Unable to see the difference they were making in a national fundraising cause, two Wapakoneta women started their own to help those living within their community.
Candlelight Missions, which Mandy Tangeman and Cindy Colaprete began six years ago, has stayed on a relatively small scale, but it’s just what the pair was hoping to accomplish.
“We met raising money for a national organization and didn’t see it going into the county,” Colaprete said. “We wanted to help people here and we were seeing people not getting the help they needed. It frustrated us. We saw that just the two of us could raise $5,000 and thought we could do more with that locally.”
While the two women have not raised huge amounts of money through Candlelight Missions, they are proud of what they have accomplished. Though they are Christian women, they operate the state-registered non-profit as non-denominational.
“It’s been a learning curve,” Colaprete said. “We don’t solicit businesses for money. Businesses are inundated with clubs and schools asking, so we decided to do it on our own by either raising the money we use or getting donations.”
Tangeman said before they help someone they do their homework as well, as unfortunately there are dishonest people asking for help and those that will double dip, taking advantage of the system, so the organizations work together so they can continue to help the most people without duplicating services.
Through Candlelight Missions, the women hold regular fundraisers, such as a weekend scrapbooking event twice a year, and April through October they sell Sweet Caroline’s chicken dinners on a street corner in Wapakoneta. Last year they also had a booth at the Auglaize County Fair.
“We want to get our name out there,” Tangeman said.
With the $6,000 to $7,000 Candlelight Missions has been raising annual, the women said they have applied it to where and what was needed in the community — buying coats, hats and gloves for children, paying utility and medical bills, buying or supplying groceries, and supplying Christmas for families.
Tangeman said what they provide is that extra $20 that sometimes others may take for granted.
“By giving them that money for a prescription, they can use their money to put milk and bread on the table,” Tangeman said.
They make financial donations of their own to programs such as Equestrian Therapy in Cridersville, or to the local food pantries. They also have been known to supply other items in need, such as a refrigerator for the Women’s Crisis Center.
They have a close relationship with local food pantries and crisis assistance centers, which will contact Candlelight Missions when they are in need. Between 2010 and 2011, the organization was able to donate a little less than $45,000 in food to area residents in need.
“We have people call us and say they have a pallet of this or that and we try to go get it and distribute it,” Tangeman said. “That extra food, whether it was ketchup, grapes, yogurt or beef, went a long way and we knew families cold use it.”
Unfortunately, Tangeman said they are having a harder time committing to such pick-ups now that she’s working full-time.
“We both have full-time jobs, but we saw the need in our own backyard so this was important for us to do,” Tangeman said.
Colaprete said at times she is almost in tears listening to the stories of those in need in Auglaize County.
“Their stories are just so gut wrenching,” Colaprete said.
“It’s fun, sad and emotional sometimes, especially around Christmas time when we are helping the kids,” Tangeman said. “We get back so much more than what we put into it.”
Colaprete said while they don’t always know who they are helping or get personal thank yous, it makes those times when they do have that personal contact that much more meaningful.
“Recently we took food to a family of seven,” Tangeman said. “It wasn’t a lot but they were in tears they were so grateful.”
With just the two of them officially involved, Tangeman said they reach out to friends and volunteers when they need the help or are holding large events. So far, those friends have always managed to pull them through.
“We wish there were a few more people on board to help out sometimes,” Tangeman said of what can be grueling work when it’s just the two of them, but they laugh together so much it’s not hard to remember why they are doing what they do.
“There’s been some trial and error, but I think as long as we can both walk and get around and see that we’re doing something, we’re going to continue to do this,” Colaprete said.
The women said the community has been really supportive. They have regulars when they hold scrapbooking events and when they serve the chicken dinners, of which they almost always sell out.
The women’s original goal to give back to their own community has come to fruition.
“We’re so hands on now,” Colaprete said. “It’s us distributing the food as opposed to giving it to a big organization or paying someone’s salary. We take no salary or pay. We do this just because we want to.”
With a downtroden economy, Colaprete said they’ve seen even more families in need.
“What we provide isn’t a permanent thing,” Colaprete said. “Sometimes people just need help filling that gap.”
Colaprete said she’s learned as she’s gotten older that it doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture. Sometimes the smallest thing can make all the difference in the world.
“The reward is so much bigger than what you give,” said Colaprete, who added that also in life often what goes around comes around.
“It’s astounding the number of people in need,” she said. “We can’t help everyone, but if we can’t, we can direct them somewhere that can.”