Helping Hands: Interfaith Human Services programs assist community members in need

June 11, 2014 

Interfaith Human Services has been around for 46 years in one form or another. Its mission has focused on providing assistance to our neighbors in need. IHS is traditional in its desire to help others and unique in its ability to adapt its response to the ever-changing challenges faced by our neighbors, community and friends.

One adaptation was the creation of the Displaced Residents Fund in fall 2012. This fund was established to help individuals and families pay for startup or rehousing costs when they were required to move due to a mobile home closure or catastrophic event. Since its inception, the Displaced Residents Fund has paid more than $46,000 in assistance to 91 people, — 62 adults and 29 children. We have more families from the recent Franklin Manor closure who need help, which will probably exceed an additional $10,000.

IHS recognizes that assistance arrives in many ways. For example, quick financial assistance can reduce stress in a family situation and possibly relieve frustration, anger and even violence. Because of this immediate help, whether it is needed because of an emergency or prolonged mismanagement, a person can refocus and redirect his or her efforts toward a better outcome. The emergency assistance opens the door for the possibility of lasting change.

Another example of IHS’ efforts to provide creative responses to changing needs is the home energy conservation class. These classes, offered in partnership with the Community Safety Net and taught by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, are a requirement for any household seeking assistance through the Centre County Fuel Bank, which is managed by IHS. This collaboration is educational for those attending and beneficial to everyone because, as conservation efforts increase, resources are extended.

IHS recently developed budgeting classes. Through its financial care programs, IHS has provided money-management guidance for years to hundreds of people. The classes were created for individuals who prefer to work within a group setting instead of one on one. It makes sense that managing money better also manages resources better. When incomes are low and/or bills are high, money management is a logical choice. IHS receives referrals from county agencies, congregations, other organizations and even self-referrals.

The budgeting classes have also found a home in our correctional system. About once a month, IHS is asked to bring our classes to the county correctional facility. Inmates who soon will be released may attend the class to acquire the basic money-management skills that can help them make good financial decisions.

The Interfaith Human Services story is one that covers many years, many congregations and many changes. To learn more, please visit www.ihs-centrecounty.org.

Ruth Donahue is the executive director of Interfaith Human Services.

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