The Good Samaritan HELPS Ministry (not an acronym) provides funding for practical, short-term financial relief to Chester County neighbors who need a one-time assistance for rent, a utility bill, prescriptions, car repair, or other immediate needs. The ministry focuses on temporary problems and giving neighbors a helping hand during a difficult time. Those requesting assistance call a HELPS line, leaving a message for one of the three HELPS counselors “on duty” for the week. Currently, these counselors are Glenna Geiger, Angela Linden, and Rose Dodd.
HELPS counselors have noticed a significant increase this year in the number of requests, and the statistics support their observations (as well as their sense of workload). Last year (for the similar nearly-six months period), they received 53 separate requests. Of that number, 31 actually received assistance, totaling $8,399. (13 were denied, and 9 were unresolved, the latter usually because of failure to provide or complete necessary paperwork.) So far in 2018, 209 people have made requests, with 106 receiving assistance totaling $29,320. (28 were denied and 75 were not resolved.) The maximum financial assistance is $300, so the average of both years described was about the same, around $275 per case.
Funds to support HELPS come from our church through its mission and outreach funds, special contributions, and gifts from parishioners. This spring the Delaware Valley Art League donated a portion of their spring show, held at Good Samaritan, to our HELPS ministry. This gift of over $900 represented ten percent of their art sold. So, if you bought any artwork at the League’s show, you helped support HELPS!
As the numbers indicate, need in our area is increasing. (Also, more people are becoming aware that Good Samaritan has this important ministry.) HELPS counselors are also working more closely with other agencies and churches in our area that assist a similar target group. All these say that they, too, are seeing a significant increase of folks in need. Some of these groups with limited resources are having to cut back on who they can help, often having to turn away very legitimate requests.
One of our HELPS counselors says, “The number of calls is increasing, as are the needs of our clients. It can feel overwhelming at times; the need seems so great, and our ability to help seems so small.” Although counselors have found it more challenging to keep up with the increase of requests for help, they do see their work as meaningful and fulfilling. Another counselor said, “It takes much prayer, perseverance, and patience to work in HELPS, especially with the increase in volume and the number of hours I spend. But, it is rewarding that most people – even if we cannot assist them – are very sincere and thankful.” She adds, “this thankfulness from those who contact us has also seemed to increase this year.”
HELPS has guidelines to help them decide who they can help, the amount of help, and the type of needs that require assistance. The maximum financial help that can be provided is $300 per situation. Also, a person or family cannot receive help more than once in a 365 day year. Although a person may make another request for assistance after a year, such requests are carefully evaluated as it is not the intent of HELPS to provide ongoing assistance. One counselor estimates that probably more than 90% of requests this year have been “first-time” requesters. She adds, “and it’s our guess that we won’t hear again (with a request) from the vast majority of these first-time clients.” In addition to amount of assistance and frequency, the request must be of a nature that may help solve, or at least help, a temporary need. For example, one client needed help with rent because they had to have surgery that made work impossible for six weeks. Once we helped with a monthly rent payment, the client was able to get back to work and able to pay rent for upcoming months.
Even when a caller’s request doesn’t “fit” HELPS criteria, counselors often give practical and spiritual help. Sometimes, a counselor might give the caller a list of other agencies who might be able to help or other practical advice for the situation. And, sometimes the requester might just get some peace of mind by talking with a counselor to help them deal with a trying situation, which at first seemed hopeless. One counselor shared about her long conversation with a person she ended up unable to help. “The young mother cried a lot as we talked. I felt bad that we couldn’t help. But when saying she was sorry we couldn’t help, the mother said, ‘No, you have really helped me. You listened!’”
If you would like to help support the HELPS ministry financially, contributions are always welcome and obviously church-approved. You can use the special pew envelopes and note on it “HELPS.” Or just a write a check to Good Samaritan, with HELPS Ministry in the memo line.