Friendly Center provides basic needs, gives hopeWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Friendly Center is striving to empower families through its new Zoë Project, a family mentoring program.
For too long, the center has just provided food and clothing, but not given families the opportunity to improve to the point where they don’t have to return to the North Toledo center, said Executive Director Morlon Harris.
In addition to the Zoë Project, The Friendly Center is taking on the challenge of feeding the rising population of the newly unemployed. These are the people who usually just want a hand up, not a hand out, according to Sheila Wheeler-Brubaker, basic needs manager. The center received a $3,000 grant through the United Way, which received $200,000 through the American Reinvestment Act, to make this extra food possible.
“People I have never seen before, people driving nice cars and well-dressed, who have never ever had to seek services before, are coming to us,” Wheeler-Brubaker said. “It is very, very sad … it’s people who have worked their whole lives.”
Food is available at the center at 1324 Superior St. between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Special extended hours for newly unemployed people working on job résumés or going to interviews during the day are 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays.
“Of course, we aren’t going to be able to prevent neighborhood folks to come … but we just want the newly unemployed people to know about this,” Wheeler-Brubaker said.
While proof of unemployment is preferred, it is not necessary, she said. The center also will provide emergency food to families three times per year.
Harris said providing food and clothing in this down economy is essential for the well-being of the community, but so is giving “neighbors” the chance to get back on their feet. The staff refers to the people it helps as “neighbors” because the center’s target ZIP codes are 43604, 43608 and 43611.
“They are neighbors from the surrounding neighborhood, around the corner, up the street, and so they are in a sense, people that we know and people who are familiar with The Friendly Center.”
The closeness with its clients is one of the reasons the staff started rethinking what it does, Harris said. Hence, the Zoë Project.
“Its goal is to assist our neighbors in achieving their dreams for their families and to improve their lives in the sense of financial stability, work force development and education-wise,” Harris said. “We want to help curtail them coming to The Friendly Center for food and what have you, and to empower them to make money or to look into other resources to help them become stable.”
A family could be considered a parent and a child, husband and wife or an individual who wants to do better, but doesn’t have the necessary resources to take the first step, he said.
Normally, clients are lacking job skills or education. Most are in poverty.
“Our beginning process is to do an assessment to find out where they are and what type of support they need,” Harris said. “Then, we still help them with basic needs of food and clothing, but we take them further in working with them in the sense of ‘Do you have a bank account? What is your credit score? Are you able to gain a GED? And if you aren’t, what needs to happen for you to get your GED?’ ”
Harris likened the process to a funnel. At the top of the funnel is everyone who comes to the center for resources.
The more they come, the more likely the staff will talk with them about other ways to help them return or graduate to self-sufficiency,” he said.
“Ever since I have been here, which was October 2007, we have always been busy,” Harris said. “I think we are much more busy because of the down economy.”
The nonprofit Friendly Center has a yearly budget of $600,000, and helps approximately 1,000 families per year.
For more information, call (419) 243-1289.