Neighbors helping neighbors, whatever that may be; that’s Christian Help in a nutshell.
Whether it’s volunteers wanting to connect, clients who require support or direct aid, or donors sharing items or funds, the focus is on people. The community-supportive and -supported organization was founded to help individuals in need and provide opportunities for improved outcomes in Monongalia and Preston counties, West Virginia.
“Christian Help reflects the best of community generosity and ownership,” says Executive Director Colleen Lankford. “It adjusts to whatever the community needs happen to be at any given time.”
How its people help
Christian Help facilitates five service programs: a free store, emergency financial assistance through vouchers, a food pantry, career closets, and life-skill development courses. These classes include the work readiness program Jobs for Life, personal finance, and nutrition programs. It also provides support through annual activities such as its Back to School and Prom Chic events in partnership with the local board of education, and co-sponsors with United Way the countywide distribution of holiday food and toys, an activity that would otherwise stretch already tight client budgets.
Christian Help’s support is need based, not income based. Clients are typically in an unexpected emergency situation.
“We serve people with dignity based upon our program parameters and budget,” says Lankford.
Absent government or agency requirements, the organization has a lot of flexibility to limit unnecessary questions and paperwork. Rather than requiring income verification, support is based upon need verification.
“We try to make it easy to help somebody,” says Lankford. “It can be demoralizing to make a person in need prove they are chronically poor. Our approach allows us to help families regardless of income, such as those impacted by federal furloughs and strikes.”
That being said, more than 97 percent of Christian Help’s support goes to households making less than $25,100, the federal poverty level for a family of four.
Lankford says the organization is founded on the model of neighbors helping neighbors.
“It is community generosity and interconnectedness that support our efforts and identify need,” she says. “We respond to emergency situations with immediacy and simplicity, respecting the dignity of all persons in the spirit of Jesus Christ.”
And while the organization does require a copy of a utility shutoff notice, or proof that a landlord will accept a voucher, “when it comes to interacting with individuals and dealing with the food pantry and free store, we don’t go there,” Lankford says.
A connected community
Christian Help is an advocate that listens closely to its clients, whose income levels tend to be limited or fixed.
“Very few people who come to Christian Help anticipate being in a crisis,” she says. “They didn’t expect to be here, and more often than not, they say, ‘I’ve always been a donor. I never expected to come here for help.’”
The organization’s community of volunteers, clients, and donors are key to its success. Huntington has contributed by supporting Christian Help through grants, championing the career closet and volunteering.
“Huntington has a been wonderful for us, and they have employees who volunteer here on a regular basis,” Lankford says.
About the organization
Name: Christian Help
Regions served: Monongalia and Preston counties
Phone: (304) 296-0221
Mission: To respond to situations of emergency and need, with immediacy and simplicity respecting the dignity of all persons in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
How you can help
Christian Help is always looking for monetary and product donations as well as people to donate time. To learn more, visit motownchristianhelp.com/volunteer.