LIMA — As finalists for the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce Nonprofit of the Year Award, three local agencies have demonstrated an ability to serve needy families and individuals in the region. And the directors of these organizations have big plans to expand their outreach even further.
This year’s finalists — Family Promise of Lima-Allen County, the Lima Family YMCA and West Ohio Food Bank — provide support to the underserved population of Allen County in different ways, but they each have a similar goal in mind: helping people so they can help themselves.
Chuck Wolfe, executive director of Family Promise, said his organization is dedicated to helping homeless families achieve and sustain independence by providing a safe haven as they seek employment and permanent housing.
“We help transform lives so they can be productive, tax-paying citizens who contribute to the wealth of the community,” Wolfe said. “When people are working and contributing to society, good things happen.”
In 2015, Wolfe said the organization served more than 100 families. Of those families, he said 83 percent were able to find permanent housing. Since its inception in 2008, Wolfe said 78 percent of adults who stayed at Family Promise were able to find jobs by the time they left.
Family Promise was also able to balance its budget in 2015, meaning there is more money available for future programs. With the extra money, the nonprofit was able to hire an additional case manager, and initiate mentorship and educational programs.
The organization is also looking to create a childhood enrichment program and start a Boy Scout troop.
“We feel children in poverty miss out on things like that, so we’re working with the local Boy Scout council so that these kids can have that same experience as other kids,” Wolfe said. “We don’t want anyone to be left out because they happen to be homeless at the moment.”
At West Ohio Food Bank, the nonprofit participates in the national BackPack Program, which helps children get the nutritious and easy-to-prepare meals they need on the weekends. CEO Linda Hamilton said they deliver these meals to Allen County schools each week, and school administrators hand them out to children whose families qualify for free-and-reduced lunches.
Though the food bank is the largest nonprofit food distributor in western Ohio, Hamilton hopes to serve even more families in the future. She said they are in the process of evaluating all their programs, and will develop a strategic plan to determine future changes that will “better serve the needs of the community.”
“We’re looking at where the immediate needs are, and how we can help people overcome food insecurity so that they can find their way to self-sufficiency,” Hamilton said.
In the future, the food bank plans to collaborate with area hospitals to determine how a lack of proper nutrition is affecting the health of local residents. She hopes that by doing this, they can help these people improve their nutrition, and ultimately their overall health.
Hamilton said they also plan to open up a food pantry on the Ohio State-Lima/Rhodes State College campus in order to expand their services to college students.
The Lima Family YMCA is also trying to expand on the number of people they serve. CEO Jared Lehman said their emphasis this summer is bringing families together for fun and exercise.
“We have really been challenging our staff to focus on family programming,” Lehman said. “At the Y, we’re really good with youth programming, but I think the best opportunity we have is in that family segment. We are trying to come up with some programming that gets families to be active together.”
In the winter, the Y established a family yoga class, and Lehman said they are planning to open up the fitness center to younger children so they can work out alongside their parents.
“It’s all about bringing families together,” he said.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima