The Rural Outreach Center (the ROC) continues to touch lives in significant ways. This review of our activities in 2014 highlights some of these “touches.” Hints of individual stories tell a key part of the ripples we are creating beyond the numbers.
We connect with our community at monthly free dinners sponsored by Pathways Christian Fellowship. Average attendance approached 90 in 2014. It is here that we learn about the needs of our community and provide connections to services. It is energizing to see persons at the tables sharing a meal and hear them offering help to one another – evidence of the empowering environment we strive to create.
Our social worker, Maria Knickerbocker, is our primary connection with those we serve. Maria was involved in almost 370 initial contacts, including over 150 initial home visits. Over 10% of these initial contacts required some kind of crisis intervention for domestic violence, potential homelessness, lack of food, etc. Maria connects these people with public and private resources and, with ROC support, tries to put them on the road to self-sufficiency. Her travel load will be lightened considerably when we open the temporary ROC (the TROC) this spring (see photo)!
It is hard to imagine the humiliation of a mother of 3 asking for toilet paper or toothpaste, soap or school supplies, not covered by SNAP (Food Stamps). Now imagine coming to the ROC and finding a place where these things are provided on an emergency basis, but also where an environment of support is created so that this situation can be avoided in the future. That is our vision.
The New Paths Distribution Center, open Wednesdays (6:00 – 7:00 pm; 5:00 -7:00 pm during community dinners) and Saturdays (9:00 – 10:00 am), distributed 569 items (valued at over $17,000) to 200 households, who were asked to pay a modest amount, donate items or volunteer at the ROC. 156 members of our community donated items. Again, try to feel the gratitude of a mother who finally can provide a bed with a mattress or a dresser for her children. Now imagine the tears as she tells the workers, “No one has ever cared for me like this before.” This is the vision of the ROC.
The Weekend Snack Pack for Kids program provides nutritious food for over 70 children in the Holland and East Aurora School Districts. The related School Backpack program provided packs filled with school supplies for 115 children in the fall distribution even at the Boys and Girls Club where free haircuts, eye and dental exams and a gift card for shoes were provided. (See picture) Or picture the proud look of the young boy who leaves with his Spiderman pack filled with supplies.
Many of those we serve live in substandard housing and our minor home repair program provided emergency repairs, improved weatherization and other services to improve living conditions. Several families no longer have to worry about roof leaks interrupting their sleep or about frozen pipes preventing them from taking a shower or flushing the toilet.
Our Health Services Program offers free care for adults without health insurance on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month. In its first full year of service the program saw 26 patient visits. Several were referred to participating physicians and at least one person was saved from potentially life- taking medical issues.
Our Social Work Assistance Team (SWAT) program trained 8 individuals to become mentors and accountability partners to help clients move to self-sufficiency. In conjunction with the Great Erie Federal Credit Union many clients now have a small, but growing, financial reserve. Think of the pride and empowering feeling for these people. This is part of the ROC vision.
Finally, we have a system to track client’s movement toward self-sufficiency. The emerging numbers from this system reinforce our model of “wrap-around” services that ask clients to begin to take responsibility for increased self- and family stability.
- Eight of ten clients identified as needing improved housing upgraded their housing. Two clients sustained previous housing improvements.
- Nine of ten clients identified as needing to develop savings were assisted in establishing a cash reserve. Two clients sustained their savings program from previous years.
- Eleven of thirteen clients identified as candidates for employment assistance became employed. An additional three sustained previous employment.
- Twenty-one of twenty-two clients identified as requiring improved emotional stability. Six sustained their previously gained stability.
- Seven of nine clients identified as requiring improved health status were able to do so. Two sustained earlier improved health status
We celebrate these successes and give thanks for the many volunteers and organizations that make this work possible. In particular we need to thank the EA Moose, Kiwanis, and Rotary clubs, the Pathways, Christian and Baker churches, the Boys and Girls Club and local businesses for volunteer and financial support and for funds from the Oishei and Maria Love Foundations.
A few of the community dinner attendees enjoying food and conversation.
Maria Knickerbocker is the person responsible for much of the care offered through the ROC.
Our new facility, the TROC, in place and waiting for the snow to melt and ground to thaw so we can use it for expanding services.
A new hairdo and a smile that would bring joy to anyone’s heart. And … a new backpack filled with supplies on top of that!