For 30 years, The Samaritan Dinner has been  raising funds to help those seeking education, financial support and prayer for overcoming drug or alcohol addiction.

For 30 years, The Samaritan Dinner has been  raising funds to help those seeking education, financial support and prayer for overcoming drug or alcohol addiction.


A ministry of Dansville Presbyterian Church, the Samaritan Fund began when the Presbytery of Genesee Valley held a meeting to discuss the issue of alcohol abuse and what its churches can do about it.


Until that point, the topic had been greatly misunderstood.


“We thought we knew who drunks were,”?Betty Minemier of Dansville said. They soon learned that they didn’t.


Dansville’s Presbyterian Church sent a delegate to the Presbytery meeting who was someone that had struggled with alcoholism, herself. When she came back to give her report to the local governing group, she gave them a quiz on alcoholism, which they failed.


“She came back to us and said, ‘You don’t know anything about alcoholism’,” Minemier recalled.


“She said, ‘you need education.’”


The group then spent several months informing themselves on the topic, and later launched the Samaritan Fund to assist those seeking help.


Intending the Fund to be a self-sufficient ministry, the committee decided to hold a fundraising dinner, and chose the month of February as a way to, in essence, bring back the church’s former Lincoln’s Day dinners.  


For the past 30 years, the Fund has charged $10 for the dinners, which has included entertainment and guest speakers. Those who volunteer for the dinner come from many churches, Minemier noted, not just Dansville Presbyterian.


Minemier is the only person who has been on the five-member application committee since its inception. She said that in more recent years, the committee has added members — some outside the church — who already have some kind of education regarding addictions so they can ask loan applicants the right kinds of questions.


The money raised from dinners and elsewhere does not go directly to the person seeking treatment, but to the treatment center on behalf of that person. Each applicant must first be in a rehabilitation program before they can seek a loan from the Fund.


Minemier said that the committee understands not all loans will be paid back in full or on a regular basis


“A lot of those people are out of work and heavily in debt, or they wouldn’t come to us,”?she said. But, “we’re not a bank.”


When the committee sees loans paid in full and in regularity, it is a good indication of stability and recovery in an alcoholic’s life.


For many years, the loans went to centers that were primarily out of the area, sometimes out of state. More recently, with hospital and governmental programs becoming more localized,  applicants, many of whom live in the surrounding area, can do so closer to home in outpatient facilities.


For its Samaritan program, the Fund was given a national recognition by the Presbyterian denomination.