Your stories deserve the spotlight!
Your stories deserve the spotlight!
Agency spotlights
May 2021 Newsletter
Success Stories That Shine
Agency Success Story

An EMS Worker Who Faced Home Foreclosure Due To Covid-19

Spotlight On Blueprints of Washington & Greene Counties

How Community Action is helping our front line workers survive the financial burden of Covid-19.

John Hill is an EMT whose work hours were cut in March 2020 and the overtime he was accustomed to was no longer available due to the pandemic. As a result of his significant reduction in income, he was unable to remain current on his mortgage while trying to satisfy all of his other financial obligations. After receiving a foreclosure notice in September, John contacted Blueprints' Home Ownership Center and was ultimately approved for $4,100 in CARES Act funding, which brought his mortgage current through December 31, 2020. John’s work schedule has returned to normal and with the help of his Home Ownership Counselor, he remained a homeowner that now has a household budget and a savings account for future emergencies.
John's Home Ownership Counselor, Irene Keirsbilck, explains, “Providing options, resources and education are key to my role as a housing counselor.  Whether it is a homeowner facing foreclosure or someone buying their first home, knowing our participants are better prepared and equipped to face the future is a good feeling."

Meet Irene Keirsbilck

 Irene is Blueprints’ most tenured employee with close to 42 years of service with the agency. Irene was named PHFA’s Housing Counselor of the Year and the CAAP’s Employee of the Year in recent years.
Irene, we cannot thank you enough for your years of dedication!

Community Action Counselors Continue To Help Virtually Throughout The Pandemic

Over the past 5 years, Blueprints’ Home Ownership Counselors have helped 260 residents purchase a home, 505 residents avoid foreclosure and 600 residents repair their credit. As a result  of the pandemic, the majority of Blueprints’ housing counseling is taking place virtually which has been well received by residents.  To learn more about the Home Ownerhsip Program, visit the Blueprints website.  You can find the same type of services at Community Action Agencies throughout the state and also nationwide.
Program Success Story

A Father's Home For Fathers Returning From Incarceration

Spotlight On Montgomery County Community Action Development Commission (CADCOM)

Housing and support are provided for fortunate fathers vowing never to return to prison.

In July 2020, CADCOM, under the leadership of Executive Director Rick Beaton, determined to launch The Fathers House which soon after became home to a group of fathers re-entering Montgomery County from State Correctional Facilities.
The Fathers House provides free housing and support services.Their goal for these men is successful reentry and self-sufficiency following their graduation from the program, and relocation from The Fathers House into their own homes.  Current residents at the House include:
  • Michael, also known as Coop, who takes great pride in his new home, and is respected by the other residents for his remarkable cleaning skills. Coop smiles when the subject of cleaning comes up and is always quick to give all the credit to his anxiety, which he also now credits for his successful employment in the cleaning industry.
  • William arrived at the House soon after Coop with the primary goal of reunification with his two young children. Before his recent graduation, he was often heard around the House reminding himself “to trust the process” and “be a good citizen.” At other times, especially early into his stay, he just needed to vent his frustration, or pour out his heart over the recent passing of his wife that led to his renewed dependency on alcohol and the self-destruction that followed.
  • Johnny joined the House next, having lost both his mother and father, and thus the only home he knew and what little belongings he had at the time of his arrest.
  • Then came Ronald, full of ambition, just after he concluded a 20-year sentence that began at the ripe age of 19. 
  • And the most recent arrival is Jeff, hopeful to restore his relationship with his son.  All of the men share the common goal of never again returning to prison.
What makes The Fathers House so special is the supportive and compassionate care provided by CADCOM’s staff and volunteers. Kevin Bone, who directs the program, emphasizes the importance of building a solid relationship with each of the residents.
"We meet them initially where they are, lending value to their stories and what makes them unique, identifying and pursuing personal goals, and coaching them to become the best version of themselves," shares Kevin.
William literally credits the program for saving his life. He was at the end of his resources when he made a phone call to Montgomery County Community Connections for food assistance, and was introduced to The Fathers House that provided not only food, but so much more, including housing, employment, transportation, and advocacy for his legal and family matters.
Coop says all the time that he “ain’t ever leaving The Fathers House” often petitioning CADCOM to open a second House in Pottstown where he can serve as House Manager and pay forward the help he’s received.  The response when asked of the guys where they would be if not for The Fathers House is unanimous, “I don’t know and I don’t even want to think about it!” They agree again, nodding heads in sync, “If only there were more places like this for people right out of prison.”
The tangible benefits to residents have been numerous, such as replacing credentials, assistance with medical appointments, applying for benefits, securing employment, and just navigating all the change and challenges caused by the pandemic. Maybe even more important to the well-being of residents have been the intangibles that can be heard, seen and sensed at individual sessions and group meetings. It includes things like acceptance, friendship, community, conversation, contribution, laughter, empathy, emotions and the like.  These are the things the guys share with each other so naturally and unknowingly on a regular basis.  
Kevin concludes “Nothing is ever perfect when it comes to this kind of work and we have our moments at the House, but overall it’s a pretty special place and personally rewarding for me to journey alongside these men at such an important time in their lives. It truly is a gift of grace.”
Read the full published story, as shared by CADCOM on Facebook.  

The "Father Absence" Crisis

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America -- one out of three -- live without their biological father in the home. Research shows that when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in the following ways:
  • 4x greater risk of poverty
  • More likely to have behavioral problems
  • 2x greater risk of infant mortality
  • More likely to commit crime
  • More likely to go to prison
  • 7x more likely to become pregnant as a teen
  • More likely to face abuse and neglect
  • More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
  • 2x more likely to suffer obesity
  • 2x more likely to drop out of high school
CADCOM's solution to this problem is the Fatherhood Empowerment Center, dedicated to empowering, educating, supporting and challenging men to become stronger, more positive forces within their own families and communities.  Read the brochure about the center and father services.
Client Success Story

Youth Program Helps Bridge The Gap To Careers

Spotlight On Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Inc. (CSO)

Students get help graduating from high school, getting a job, enrolling in post-secondary education and joining the military amid the uncertainty for many in this pandemic.

Alexandra entered the Bridges to the Future program in June 2020, as a 10th grader. Her goals were to receive assistance with career exploration and career pathway planning with the eventual goal of becoming a registered nurse. Alex’s motivation to enter nursing comes from the heart, for as long as she can remember, she has helped take care of her disabled sister.

Despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Alexandra      attended two weeks of Camp STEAM virtually. Along with her peers, she learned about local opportunities, financial literacy, as well as the soft skills employers look for in candidates. A guest speaker from UPMC discussed job opportunities in their healthcare facilities, provided social media guidance, and gave the group resume writing tips. Alex received a $250 stipend for participation and had perfect attendance in Camp STEAM activities. 

Alexandra never allowed setbacks from the pandemic to decrease her determination to begin taking steps toward a healthcare career pathway. She managed to apply, interview, and secure unsubsidized employment. Currently working approximately 20 hours in the evenings and on the weekends in the Dietary Department at a local Hospital.

Once finished with 11th grade, Alex plans on securing a paid work experience with a participating health care employer. Not only will she be gaining real-life work experience in patient care, but she will be earning $10.35 per hour. Alex’s workforce specialist from Bridges to the Future will be there to monitor her progress and accomplishments.
"With the support of her family, school, and workforce specialist, Alexandra is destined for continuing success. Her decision to enter a high priority occupation in the healthcare field will ensure job placement and job security in her future," says a CSO representative.
CSO's Bridges to the Future Program is contracted through CPWDC. It helps eligible students in selected school districts in Northumberland, Columbia, Montour, Union, Snyder, Mifflin, Clinton, Lycoming, and Centre counties graduate from high school and get a job, enroll in post-secondary education, or join the military. The program runs from the sophomore year in high school until one year after high school graduation.
"The Bridges to the Future staff supports students with intense one-on-one case management services. Participants explore their career interests and build skills to create goals for the future. Students leave the program with a resume and cover letter, interviewing skills, teamwork and customer service experience, work and leadership experience, financial knowledge, contacts in the local industry, and a clear pathway to achieve their work and life goals," shares CSO.

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