Pike United Way devotes lion's share to hunger and homelessness
President Steve Guccini says local people in need 'have to make impossible decisions of whether to buy food, pay utilities or put aside money for rent or the mortgage payment. There just isn’t enough money to go around.'
By Frances Ruth Harris
Milford. The United Way of Pike County gives three times more money to alleviate hunger and homelessness than it gives to all other causes combined.
These causes are central to its mission, which is "to identify, develop and fund, a full range of human services to alleviate hunger and homelessness and to meet critical needs of the community," according to its website (unitedwaypike.org).
The nonprofit organization dispersed $42,000 in 2018. In addition to groups that directly aid those who are homeless or hungry, the money also supports literacy and autism services, and aids those in detention, among other causes.
Pike United Way does not make contributions to The Salvation Army, which has other sources of funding.
"They have an enormous national budget," said Pike United Way Administrative Assistant Jody Walsh. "I appreciate all they do, but the others are dependent on local funds."
Walsh said she works at least 20 hours per week, for $12 an hour.
'A good way to give back'
Pike United Way President Steve Guccini said he learned much more about the organization after Matt Osterberg, its board president for several years, asked him to get involved.
"It seemed like a good way to give back to the community," Guccini said.
Once he was on the board, he became even more enthusiastic about its mission, which he said is very important in Pike County.
"We have numerous food pantries, and I have visited several of them, and there are always individuals and families there who need help with obtaining food," he said. "Homelessness is a more difficult problem to define and tackle. Some would say that we don’t have a homeless problem in the same way more urban areas do. While that is true to some extent, it is also true that there are people in the county of varying ages who struggle to have consistent housing."
Guccini and Osterberg are both county commissioners and work for Pike United Way as volunteers.
Pike's housing needs met by Wayne County
Guccini said the Wayne County Housing Authority handles the needs of homeless Pike County residents through its Waymart office.
"A total of 398 families were being served as of the time I received the information, which was Feb. 1, 2019," he said. "Of those, 32 were receiving public assistance and 366 were not. 112 were 62 or older and 286 were under 62. 111 were disabled. The average annual income of all families was 15,197."
These figures do not include Section 8 housing in Pike County. Section 8, a federal program created by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1978, allows the owner of any apartment or house to take eligible tenants as long as the building passes certain inspections, Guccini said.
Another option for alleviating homelessness locally is on the horizon.
The Local Housing Option Team, a pilot program proposed for Pike, Monroe, and Wayne counties, will match senior citizens age 60 years or older with another person to share housing and split costs in accordance with a written agreement.
Guccini said he recently attended a team meeting, and that more information on the program will be available soon.
He said there are many people in Pike County who are not yet homeless but are on the brink, in that they may not know where next month’s rent is coming from.
"They may have to make impossible decisions of whether to buy food, pay utilities or put aside money for rent or the mortgage payment," he said. "There just isn’t enough money to go around. Because of these issues, I was happy to volunteer to become president once Matt’s term ended."
How you can help
There are a number of ways to help the United Way of Pike County in its mission:
Workplace donations: Employers can collect donations from employees. County and school employees have this option now, with many giving $5, $10, $15, or $20 each month from their paychecks.
Fundraisers: People can take part in Pike United Way's fundraisers, which include a golf outing coming up on May 13. There's also the Chef’s United Dinner and the Day of Caring, which are held every fall. Dates for all events will be listed on the organization's new website, which will be up and running very soon. The old website isn’t fully functioning, but some information is available: unitedwaypike.org.
Board service: President Steve Guccini and Administrative Assistant Jody Walsh said 60 percent of the board is new, and terms are expiring. Anyone who would like to serve on the board may email a letter of intent to Guccini at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pike United Way moved from its Harford Street office to the Milford Community Center at 201 Broad Street (second floor, opposite the office of Economic Director Mike Sullivan). The phone number for Pike United Way is 570-296-9980.
Please see these related stories at pikecountycourier.com:
"Housing insecurity is rising in Pike County, advocates say"
"Golf for a good cause"
"Food pantry is ready for Easter and Passover distribution"
"Hunters can share their harvest"