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Center for Family Services assistance assistance programs.

The Center for Family Services has everything from a food pantry and thrift store on site to HUD approved housing counseling. They operate in both Crawford and Erie County and are focused on assisting less fortunate families in the region.

The CFS supported Food Pantries provide once-monthly supplemental boxes of groceries to qualifying households, with additional Emergency Food Boxes available on a case-by-case basis. Eligibility is determined based on a self-declaration of need. However there will also be a requirement of household income not exceeding 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Each household that uses the on-site pantry is required to use the center designated for their zip code, unless they make other arrangements with a Center for Family Services staff member. Funding for the pantries is provided by the State of Pennsylvania Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and also TEFAP.

As a HUD - US Department of Housing and Urban Development approved counseling agency, and a Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) partner, CFS encourages households having difficulty making mortgage payments to contact their Foreclosure Counseling Service. This should be done before they miss a mortgage payment and/or before their homes go into foreclosure.




Center for Family Services housing counselors provide assistance and support by negotiating with lenders for clients seeking loan modifications or forbearance plans. In addition, the non-profit will strongly recommend keeping in contact with the lender about any payment issues. Homeowners in Erie County need to stay on top of issues which are unlikely to resolve themselves and just go away.

The Homeless Assistance Program (HAP) offers cash grants. There may be funds for paying first-month’s rent, a security deposit, or limited dollar amount to cover arrears. This aid is for households whose incomes are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, but still have the ability to meet ongoing expenses after any type of financial assistance is provided. There are also other assistance programs for security deposits available to would be renters.

CFS also operates several utility bill assistance programs for income qualified residents of Western Crawford County. Those living in Eastern Crawford County (such as the Titusville area) should contact Associated Charities at 814-827-6613 for energy assistance. The CFS programs include the following:





-Emergency assistance is dependent on availability of funds and provided on a case by case basis.
-Neighbor for Neighbor is a national program for eligible individuals aged 55 or older who receive unemployment compensation, disability income, or are experiencing a physician-documented medical emergency.
-Member to Member is a utility assistance program limited to Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative customers who have been referred by the Cooperative.

The Center for Family Services Budget Counseling Service provides personalized one-on-one counseling services that help clients discover ways to save money. It will also help them stay within their financial limits; avoid fees for late payments, overdrafts, and so on. The specialists will recommend a number of two-and-a-half-hour long sessions. Budget Counseling from the agency will help people make dreams of owning a car, homeownership, a college education, etc. reality.

The Best Foot Forward PA Workwear Program provides low-income men and women with appropriate clothing to wear when interviewing, looking for a job and going to work. The Department of Public Welfare and St. Benedict’s Education Center partner with Center for Family Services. Together they offer referrals for clients who qualify. Specific items include the following of Plus-Size Clothing (men’s and women’s), work shoes, suits, belts, and more.

The CFS Thrift Store is the only location in the Erie County Pennsylvania area that provides eligible, very low-income adults and children with vouchers for free clothing. Eligibility for the store is determined on a case-by-case basis. The voucher service is made possible through donations of clothing and household goods from community members. If the center is not able to help, other sources of free clothing assistance programs may be accessed.

Each fall, the non-profit will also distribute gently used and new winter coats to local families in need. Sizes and styles will be for children as well as adults. The goods are available at any given time are based on donations from the community.

Local families from Crawford and Erie who are experiencing financial difficulties are identified or referred to CFS by partner agencies to benefit from the Christmas Adopt-a-Family Program. This is a  unique service because it assists entire families, rather than concentrating solely on the children.




The generous adopters from the Center for Family Services service area often assist with everything from gifts to passing out free groceries to assisting with utility bill payments. Anyone interested in becoming an adopter is encouraged to contact CFS. There are also other resources that can help brighten a family’s holiday.

CFS also collects donated school supplies during the summer. These are then passed out in the fall. The non-profit then provides new book bags and school supplies to qualifying Crawford County Pre-K through twelfth grade students in need. Availability of this service is based on contributions from members of the community.

For more information, or referrals, the Center for Family Services can be called at 814-337-8450. The address is 213 W. Center St., Meadville, PA 16335.

By Jon McNamara











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