Penn Charter students cleaning Cupboard storage containers at Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry.

Housed in the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown on West Chelten Ave., the Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry is a one-stop community resource and, for those in need, a lifeline.

The ministry offers assistance to area residents who may be struggling to put food on the table, or to pay their utility bills, or find the funds to put down a security deposit before moving into an apartment.

For most of us, performing a juggling act to pay our bills is a not-uncommon occurrence. But an unexpected life event, such as a car problem, home repair, or medical issue, can make that process a challenge.

Eileen Jones serves as executive director of the ministry on a part-time basis. She works alongside one other part-time staffer and a corps of volunteers. Jones explains that the ministry’s mission is to help people in need learn to stand on their own. “We want to help our clients take that next step toward self-sufficiency,” she said. “If they can do it for themselves, we want to tell them how and support them in doing it.”

The ministry provides various services to achieve that end, including providing housing and utility assistance. The group does not provide housing. But it does offer support to those who may have been homeless and have found a place to live but need assistance getting through the process.

Someone eligible for Section 8 housing may not be responsible for rent but must still put down a security deposit. That’s where the ministry can help. Or, if a family is facing an emergency and can’t meet a gas or water bill, the ministry has resources available.

“The fact is that of people don’t have resources,” Jones said. “They can’t move into a home if they’ve been homeless and they finally located a place. Nor can they stay in a place if they don’t have the money to keep the lights on, keep the water on or replace the water heater if it goes on them.”

Jones notes that some residents aren’t aware of the public programs that are available to them. “So when they come to us, we’re going to do a good intake,” she said, “and then refer them to appropriate places where they can receive help with public dollars and then if they need more, they can come to us, because we actually have a small private grant that we also give.”

Except in rare instances, that grant may be for up to $300 per situation. Jones says the underlying philosophy of the program is to allow those who may be suffering misfortune to get to the point where they can stand on their own.

“The expectation is that the individual would be able to maintain going forward,” she said. “Sometimes you have to have a little more latitude. Some people have just faced an unexpected emergency. Their unemployment ran out They may have a mortgage payment; right now, they’re not looking for two months down the road. They just need to get that mortgage paid for this next month.”

Germantown resident Wendy Sligh heads a household of seven that includes three generations. Not long ago, she turned to the Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry for when there was an issue with her utility bills. She discovered the ministry while out taking a walk and, once inside its doors, got the help she needed. In addition to help with her utility bills, she also received assistance with a rent rebate application.

“They helped me out with my heating and light bills,” Singh said, “which was a blessing. They were very helpful.”

Apart from assistance with housing and utility issues, the ministry offers additional services, including a food cupboard that is open each Thursday. “we have a wide variety of food items,” Jones says, “including meats. Man cannot live by canned goods alone.”

The food cupboard also has toiletries and cleaning supplies available and a community garden maintained by students the Mastery Charter School Pickett Campus is a source for fresh vegetables. In addition, each month the ministry provides $10 vouchers to needy families that can be redeemed at the nearby A&N House of Produce for milk, eggs, and vegetables.

The ministry also offers assistance with banking and tax issues along with a four-part program focusing on health and wellness, computer literacy, and other topics intended to help attendees become more self-sufficient.

“What we’re trying to do is (determine) ‘What can we offer as a ministry that will meet the needs of our community?” Jones said. “We don’t really want to replicate some things that are out there, but on the other hand, because of our interest in getting people who might not otherwise reach out or follow through, there are some things we think we need to do.”

To learn more about the services available at the Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry or about volunteering there, go to: https://www.crisisministry.org

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