HELPS Ministry During the Pandemic

HELPS is an outreach ministry of Good Samaritan designed to provide limited financial assistance to people in Chester County who find themselves in short-term financial need. The economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have placed many people in, hopefully temporary financial need. Recent requests to the HELPS Ministry voicemail have been mainly new people, furloughed or laid off food service employees, and home-care providers. Since the economic realities of layoffs began in early March, HELPS received twenty-four requests and has been able to provide assistance to eighteen of these with nearly $5,000 in assistance. (HELPS limits assistance to $300.) Most help goes to rent and mortgage payments and utility bills.

Funds available for HELPS comes totally from contributions such as grants, regular donations, and special gifts from parishioners – no regular church funds are budgeted for this ministry. Unfortunately, due mainly to the way a yearly grant was divided, HELPS began the year with approximately half the funds available at the beginning of 2019. Fortunately, though, significant gifts from two parishioners has bridged that gap and enabled HELPS to assist people during the pandemic that, without these gifts, may have gone unserved. Anyone wishing to contribute to the HELPS Ministry with any financial gift can do so by giving to Good Sam and earmarking their gift for HELPS.

As noted, the economic ramifications of the pandemic have greatly impacted the number of people for which HELPS was designed to help. HELPS counselors Angela Linden and Rose Dodd share stories of people who now find themselves in financial need; situations, which in the past they have been able to manage themselves. One such woman worked as a waitress at two different businesses and was laid off from both. HELPS was able to assist her with a portion of a mortgage payment. Another woman and single parent had been a home healthcare worker who just lost a client and the agency was not assigning new ones. She has applied for unemployment but as yet has not received a determination. The HELPS counselor, working with another agency, was able to help her make her rental payment. Another such client was a painter, and as self-employed, does not qualify for any regular type of assistance. Again, HELPS assisted with paying a portion of his rent.

In all cases, any financial assistance goes directly to the landlord, mortgage company, or utility company, never to the individual. Now, and through much of 2019, HELPS works in conjunction with other agencies such as Orion Community Services in Phoenixville. This is helpful in two ways. First, such an agency can "vet" the potential client to ensure the need is valid, and secondly the agency can work with other churches and agencies to help a client "patch together" sufficient support to better meet their immediate need. HELPS also works in similar ways with other agencies such as St. Vincent DePaul, Steeple to People in Honey Brook, Central Presbyterian Church in Downingtown, Friends Associates in West Chester.

In 2019, HELPS spent $42,952 assisting 160 people from a request list of 253. So far for all of 2020, the ministry has received 65 requests, has helped 40 for a total of $10,800. Counselors Angela and Rose always talk over the phone with anyone making requests. In addition to hearing their stories and determining whether HELPS assistance is appropriate, they often give advice such as other agencies a person might contact, special numbers to reach help at a utility, and simply a listening and encouraging ear.

Please include HELPS in your prayers: Not only for those people needing help but also the counselors who spend considerable time (and emotional energy) working with clients. If you'd like to help HELPS financially, any gifts are appreciated. Gifts can be made to the church and earmarked for the HELPS Ministry.