Nov 17, 2011 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
There was no mission in mind when a group of Baldwinsville volunteers got together for breakfast this summer.
However, casual conversation eventually led to a discussion about the alarming amount of individuals in the community who need help but don’t fall within the poverty guideline to receive assistance from existing programs. They are known as the working poor, people who are living paycheck to paycheck and many are falling farther behind financially.
“We decided as a group to do something about it,” said Elaine Sartwell, a participant in the conversation. As former director of County West Family Resource Center, an arm of PEACE Inc., Sartwell is very familiar with the needs of our community.
“The face of poverty has been turning for the past decade and the middle class is bottoming out. Those who were previously able to stay above water are now drowning,“ she said. “The working poor have no where to turn.”
To meet the needs of the working poor, the group of volunteers formed B’ville Community Action Resource and Empowerment Support (CARES), which will temporarily operate under the umbrella of the Baldwinsville Volunteer Center. The mission of the program is to serve the population that is currently under-served within the Greater Baldwinsville community at no cost to those in need.
Due to federal cutbacks in funding for community action programs, there exists a gap whereby the working poor are deemed ineligible for assistance. Existing programs turn people away if their income is more than 125 percent of the poverty level, which amounts to $23,163 for a single mother with two children.
“Under these guidelines, there exists a large population in our community who are in need of assistance, but do not qualify for it,” said Sartwell, who is the co-coordinator of B’ville CARES, along with Ellen Stevens. “B’ville CARES is addressing these types of gaps by implementing several programs without income eligibility requirements.”
Those programs include Crisis intervention, advocacy and appropriate referral, which establishes resources to meet emergency needs (i.e. food pantry); B’ville Kids Kount, a year-round program designed for elementary age children who are in need of homework help, socialization and community involvement; and Healthy Steps Toward Economic Wellness (STEW), which includes a support group to help individuals become self-sufficient, a budgeting and credit repair component and a job search component.
In addition to the programs, a steering committee has been formed to help B’ville CARES operate efficiently. Janet Theirien, chairperson for the committee, said steering committee members are reaching out to individuals and businesses that can help. For example, B’ville CARES has established an arrangement with Brian’s Dry Cleaners so individuals who have scheduled an interview for employment can have their attire dry cleaned at the establishment for free. The initiative is also working with the Baldwinsville Public Library’s new business resource center to help people find jobs.
According to Sartwell, the working poor could range from families in transition (primary caretaker is laid off from a good-paying job and the family is faced with a high mortgage and no way to pay it) to the single mom with two kids making $10 per hour.
“We’re leaving this huge gap where people are making a choice between feeding their families and putting gas in their cars so they can go to work,” Sartwell said. “They are living paycheck to paycheck then if the car breaks down, they can’t fix it so they can’t go to work.”
B’ville CARES aims to get these people back on their feet and moving in the right direction at no cost.
B’ville Cares operates out of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on Route 370 (Cold Springs Road) in Baldwinsville. The initiative is funded solely through the generosity of the community. With no paid employees or overhead, all donations go directly to helping those in need. If you are interested in volunteering for B’ville CARES, would like to collaborate with or make a donation to the organization, contact Sartwell or Stevens at 380-8316 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.