Churches across western Massachusetts, including in the counties of Hampden, Berkshire, Worcester, and other regions may get help for their basic needs in a crisis. The Council of Churches of Western Massachusetts administers a number of programs for the less fortunate. There are locations available, even in Hampshire, and they can assist those who qualify, regardless of religions and backgrounds.
One of the programs that is always in high demand is for emergency heating bill and fuel assistance. This is available during the winter months. While funding levels will always change from year to year and the program relies heavily on donations, in some years hundreds of local families and elderly get help with their energy bills.
Generous donations are provided to the council from individuals, local businesses, churches, and the City of Springfield as well. Also, many local heating and fuel oil companies also contribute hundreds of gallons of free oil and/or financial aid to help fund the emergency program. Several other non-profits organizations also support the council and this heating bill program.
In an effort to help as many local families as possible during the winter season, the council will also work with Catholic Charities, the New England Farm Workers, the Salvation Army in Springfield, and also Citizens' Energy. Since funds are so limited, priority is for senior citizens, the elderly, first-time callers, and families with young children or infants. For information on this resource, dial 413-733-2149.
A volunteer care-giving program is known as Faith in Action. This was created by the Council of Churches of Western Massachusetts in an effort to help seniors and elders remain in their homes and to also maintain their independence. Volunteers and the charities work together to provide services such as transportation, yard and home maintenance, and even assistance with shopping. Phone 413-746-0237.
A number of resources are provided as part of Emergency Support Services. This church based program assists families and individuals who are in crisis situations with counseling, financial support and referral services. Dozens of calls are usually made to the organization weekly and people need help with a wide variety of items.
As funding allows, Council of Churches of Western Massachusetts may offer limited amounts of monetary gifts and/or referrals for basic needs. They can also provide guidance through crisis situations and advocacy with utility companies and landlords. Most of the emergency support requests are for financial hardships, however they also help those who need counseling or referrals to other appropriate agencies. They have information on non-profits and government programs, as indicated below. Call 413-733-2143 for more information.
Camperships will offer scholarships for at-risk youth and students. This can enable them to attend camp during the summer months. Dial 413-733-2149 for more information.
Faith Based After-Incarceration Support Services can help people from the community that are homeless, chronically ill, recently unemployed, those that have been released from prison, and others. The council will offer them programs such as After-Incarceration Support. Volunteers and staff can provide them with one-to-one mentoring. This is for individuals who are making a transition back into the community after having been released from prison or it can help the sick and people looking for a home.
This program also relies on partner agencies. For example, the council works with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and they have created a Mentoring Center. This will offer training for mentors, a central place for aftercare resources, and education and awareness seminars for people re-entering the community. They also work with the Hampden County Prison in Ludlow and the Anti-Drug Coalition.
The groups targeted by this program are the newly unemployed, homeless, the terminally or chronically ill, people in recovery, those leaving long-term treatment facilities, and ex-convicts. Dial 413-733-2149 for additional details.
The Council of Churches of Western Massachusetts administers Homelessness resources too. This program will advocate on behalf of people facing evictions and the homeless. It provides advocacy, direct services, and maybe financial assistance from the emergency services referenced above. The agency will also develop partnerships and coalitions on behalf of specific families. The churches also serve on the Springfield Mayor's Strategic Planning Committee on Homelessness. The goal is mobilize the religious community, develop permanent and affordable housing for all, and to also identify mentors for the homeless. Phone number is 413-733-2149.
As indicated, they also partner with many other non-profits and regional programs. Examples include the following.
Food banks, pantries, and meal sites
Regional Fuel Assistance programs
Federal government medical care and local clinics
Homelessness prevention - rent assistance
The Council of Churches of Western Massachusetts is located at 39 Oakland St., Springfield, MA 01108. Call (413) 733-2149.
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