The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 24, 2013

Working smarter to help needy | Leaders share ideas to simplify giving

The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — An effort to streamline how local agencies handle holiday distributions could end up being a gift for the entire region.

Representatives from more than a dozen charities, churches and nonprofit organizations brainstormed for about 90 minutes at a meeting Wednesday at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.

We all know that there are needy people in our region who can use a helping hand, and there are plenty of giving souls willing to reach out in any way that they can. The problem can be how to connect those two groups.

“The challenge is: We are trying to be a community fix for individual needs,” said Paula Eppley-Newman, executive director of Beginnings, Inc. “We are all serving the same community. We need to do it smarter.”

We’re all for that. The Tribune-Democrat’s Santa Fund raised more than $30,000 last year to help make Christmas a little brighter for more than 1,300 children in our region, but if there is anything we can do to come together with local organizations to make the process run smoother and be more productive, count us in.

“The real aspiration is the goal of moving people into better circumstances – to get them some real help,” said Mike Kane, president of Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

Reporter Randy Griffith wrote that agency leaders said a shared database of potential clients that identifies needs but maintains confidentiality would be a valuable tool.

We certainly can see how that would be beneficial. With a limited amount of human resources, a combined database would eliminate duplication of work. That means that the manpower could be put to better use for individual organizations.

That’s the kind of thinking that would benefit the local groups and, more importantly, the people that they help.

We’re encouraged by the initial meeting and excited to see what steps the organizations can take to make it better for so many in our region.

“I think the work we did today is very important to try to uncover all the issues,” said Bill McKinney, United Way president. “It does seem like we have a framework set. That was one of the goals for today.

“Now, how do we move forward?”

We look forward to finding that out.

Here to help

Agencies that participated in Wednesday’s brainstorming session were:

Johnstown forum: Salvation Army; Beginnings, Inc.; Pennsylvania Highlands Community College; Alternative Community Resource Program; United Methodist Human Services; Catholic Charities; Peer Empowerment Network; Resurrection parish; Johnstown United Methodist Parish; Mom’s House; Community Foundation for the Alleghenies; Women’s Help Center; United Way of the Laurel Highlands.

Somerset forum: Salvation Army; Family Center; Tableland Services Inc.; SOS Secret Santa; Boys & Girls Club of Somerset County.

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