WARSAW — Combined Community Services works to help Kosciusko residents in a number of ways. Some of the most well known programs are the food pantry and utility assistance program that helps with immediate needs. Lesser known programs are directed towards economic self-sufficiency and getting program participants back on their feet and off of government welfare.
Project Independence and Hand Up aim at helping Kosciusko citizens learn life skills so participants can graduate the program income with at least 125 percent of the poverty level so government assistance is no longer needed.
CCS Executive Director Steve Possell explains what makes CCS’s self-sufficiency program different from the rest: while most programs graduate the participant with one or two skills, CCS graduates participants with a number of skills and a network of resources to help keep people out of poverty and off of government assistance.
The organization has been providing self-sufficiency programs for 25 years, starting with Project Independence.
Project Independence is a long-term mentoring program that aims at helping Kosciusko families achieve economic independence through education. They do this by helping participants develop the skills necessary to secure productive employment and ultimately eliminate all need for financial assistance.
While CCS does not pay for the participants education, case managers provide resources for budgeting, financial aid information, goal setting, decision making and education planning. The program includes monthly workshops and incentives for completing activities.
To be eligible for the PI program, you must be over 18 years of age, be pregnant or have children in your custody, meet income guidelines and be a resident of Kosciusko.
Hand Up was started 10 years ago and differs from PI by being a short term, crisis diversion, such as gaining stability when facing sudden unemployment. Lasting only six months to a year, the program aims at resume development, job searching, goal setting, parenting resources and navigating services offered within the county.
Currently the Hand Up program has a waiting list, as the organization only has four case managers. “There’s a real need for this short term, stability program,” says Director of Self-Sufficiency Tammy Smith.
Both programs have participants meet one on one with a case manager to evaluate needs and goals. Around 75 people currently participate in the programs every year, with around eight participants graduating with Bachelor degrees.
“We are investing in their life and their future with them,” says Smith.
And those that have trouble getting from one place to another, CSS is able to provide gas vouchers and can meet at homes or businesses to spare people the travel expense. Smith says they don’t want people to feel like they can’t participate in a program because they can’t get around.
As with all community programs, donations are greatly appreciated. With the new federal administration, Real Services is at risk of being defunded, meaning CCS will lose some funding for their PI program. Donors can choose to “adopt” families or college students, or donate directly to CCS.
For more information go online or call (574) 269-6019.