A Divine Mission
As Wayne Township Trustee, it is my responsibility to continue to seek out methods and opportunities that can benefit the citizens of Wayne Township. Our community partnership concept has proven to be quite beneficial for our clients and for other social service agencies. Although I would love to take full credit for this brilliant concept (it’s election time and as you probably know, it’s my year), I can’t because I was raised to give credit where credit is due. This mission began about seven years ago following a community meeting that was called by Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese to address a projected homeless crisis.
Bishop D’Arcy called together leaders of the community that worked to help the homeless. Using the wisdom and leadership of a great Bishop, he asked us to explain the services we could provide to help our homeless citizens, work together to leverage our resources, and then address and prevent this crisis. The result was a coordinated effort by all of the major community homeless service providers to work all referrals through First Call for Help, our local 211 service provider. The result was order and exceptional services, instead of crisis and confusion. Little did Bishop D’Arcy know at the time, this was the best example a young Trustee could experience. Wow, what a service model, and example to carry on!
The Wayne Township Trustee’s Office began learning all we could about other community agencies and educating them on the services of Township Government, more specifically Wayne Township. One partnership with great success leads to another, and then another, until over the course of two years, the Wayne Township Office was one of the premier partners with all major agencies in Northern Indiana. With a great understanding and working relationships with our community agencies in hand, the Wayne Township staff was now ready to reach out to the place that citizens turn when they have exhausted all agency resources, the faith-based community.
About five years ago, we began to recognize the vital influence of the faith-based community in providing guidance to our clients. Knowing the commitment that already existed, we decided to reach out to the clergy and tap into their vast knowledge and benevolent spirit. Since poverty is an ever-evolving opponent, we knew that our strategies must also be reevaluated.
By ignoring the role of the clergy, we wo uld limit our resources in the fight against poverty.
The Pastor is often the first and/or last line of defense. People trust that their pastor will give them reliable information and guide them to make wise decisions. With that in mind, we decided about 5 years ago to provide information to the clergy about our services. We sent out over 440 letters to clergy inviting them to our office so that we could explain our policies and procedures. We also wanted to give them a tool kit (if they didn’t already have one) to reduce the number of people who come to the churches looking for money and claiming no agencies will help them, when in reality they were just trying to take advantage of our most benevolent resource.
Well, whenever you set out to do something good, you usually get far more than you have bargained for. This situation proved to be no different. We found one pastor who gets inundated with calls for help. When asked why, he replied, “Because our church is the first ones listed in the phone book and often people just start calling numbers until they hit the jackpot.” Another pastor told us about carrying groceries out to a car that was full of items from other food resources. Then there was the man who said he was stranded in Fort Wayne and needed a bus ticket home, his assistance was declined by the pastor because the same man had asked for the same thing only a year ago.
So far, close to one half of the 440 pastors have accepted our offer of information exchange. They continue to tell us, “This is the best time we have spent with any township. Now, we always seem to have the resources left over to help those that we know need help.” Like most members of the public, they are startled to find out the wide range of services the township provides. When we talk about all of the services that can be accessed in addition to ours through our community partnerships, they are astounded.
They all seem to be especially appreciative of using our release of information form. This form allows the client and pastors the ability to access the client’s township history by faxing a signed consent form, thereby clearing up any question about their eligibility. Those of the clergy that have worked with us before, say with a smile, “When I pull out the consent form and present it to the greedy, they quickly separate themselves from the needy, by having a sudden change of heart.”
If you are one of the 220 churches in the community that we haven’t had the pleasure to talk to, give us a call, we would love to meet with you.
My most sincere thanks to Bishop John M. D’Arcy and the rest of the faith-based community, whose partnerships along with the community agencies in Northeast Indiana have helped us to become the valuable resource that we are today. Please vote November 7th.
By the way, thanks to The Waynedale News and Waynedale community, another great community partner that helps us to get the word out.
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