By BRENNA GRITEMAN
Christian Clearing House is celebrating a quarter-century of helping people obtain life-saving medications, providing work boots and needed household items, and helping families keep their heat and electricity turned on.
The nonprofit agency regularly serves people facing homelessness, kids going hungry, grandparents raising their grandchildren, families affected by opiate use and victims of human trafficking.
“We see it all,” says executive director Tammy Stahl. “We see people from all walks of life, and these are the stories they tell.”
Stahl and her team of 80-plus volunteers (she is one of only two paid staff members) work one-on-one with downtrodden members of the community to provide direct client aid to about 14% of Hancock County’s population annually. The agency responds to up to 500 emergency requests each month, and provides countless referrals to other local agencies.
In 2018, Christian Clearing House provided a total of $223,748 toward 4,721 total crisis requests, assisting 12,227 individuals. The agency provided $64,490 in response to 1,492 requests for food; $61,116 assisted 776 utility requests; $6,684 helped fulfill 98 medical requests; $2,745 provided 110 gasoline requests; and $34,125 was offered toward 321 housing requests. Additional funding went toward taxable household items, shoes for children, an electricity roundup and “other” requests.
The story of Christian Clearing House begins in 1994, when First Presbyterian Church initiated a meeting with local churches to discuss a pattern of need.
“The churches knew that there was a need in the community. They often would see people going from church to church,” asking for the type of assistance Christian Clearing House now provides, Stahl says. The churches also noticed a “duplication” in individual services and hoped a formal agency could provide more lasting results than the churches’ repeated help.
The nonprofit Christian Clearing House was formed as a coalition of 13 churches with an annual budget of $2,500. Today, 40% of the agency’s $400,000-plus annual budget is funded by 52 member churches. Additional funding comes from private and corporate donors, fundraisers and grants.
Christian Clearing House has provided well over $3 million in direct client aid, helping over 82,000 individuals in the past 25 years. And, Stahl says, because it is not government-regulated, the agency can assist anyone it deems worthy, with any problem they may be facing. That means if a house fire or flood happens, a family won’t be turned away based on income restrictions.
There are limits, however, to how often a family or individual can be helped, and the agency never gives cash, but instead provides vouchers or direct payments to landlords or utility companies.
“Our goal is for people to become self-sustaining,” Stahl says.
With its office in The Family Center, the agency regularly refers clients to other local nonprofits, such as the Caughman Health Center and Chopin Hall.
The agency also operates its own Caring Cupboard, a supply of donated items such as toilet paper, diapers, laundry soap and hygiene items. Over $38,000 in items were donated in 2018, and donations of items for the cupboard are always welcome.
Other Christian Clearing House programs include:
• Project Happy Feet, which provides a $50 voucher toward new shoes to children at the start of each school year. Over 500 vouchers were issued in 2018.
• Stuff the Bus, a community school supplies effort that distributed over 1,000 backpacks ahead of the 2019 school year.
• The Food Security Coalition, funded through the United Way of Hancock County to help provide sustainable solutions to the problem of hunger in Hancock County. In 2018, the agency received a $50,000 grant to provide vouchers to food insecure families.
• Neighbor to Neighbor, a roundup program with AEP Electric. Since 2009, the program has helped 2,184 families with $470,583 to keep their electricity connected.
Christian Clearing House will hold an anniversary open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.
Community members experiencing hardship can contact the agency at 1800 N. Blanchard St., Suite 107, or by phone at 419-422-2222. Office hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Fridays; and from 1-4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.
Donations can be made at cchsupport.org.