Local program receives grant to help people break dependence on public assistance
When Laura Lunnam was just a child, her mother was single and working on her GED, and having a hard time keeping the family afloat. The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program made a difference for her family, and Lunnam distinctly remembers the Salvation Army coat drive when she was about 7 years old and how it felt to finally have a new coat to call her own.
“That’s why I am passionate about it,” Lunnam, a captain for the Vincennes Salvation Army, said as she remembered how her family was helped when she was just a child.
Corps Officer Lunnam, along with her husband, Curtis, a lieutenant, run the local program and pastor at The Salvation Army church.
Pathway of Hope — the local program she is so passionate about — this fall was the recipient of $40,000 TLC grant (Target Lasting Change) from the Knox County Community Foundation — which CF regional director Mary Smith says will help lift participants out of poverty and away from dependency on public assistance.
The Foundation’s first TLC grant was awarded in 2008 to Life After Meth and the second awarded in 2012 to Hope’s Voice.
TLC projects must strategically address a pressing community need and aim to make a significant and sustained, positive impact among the population being served and/or the broader community. Just like the Foundation’s Community Good grants, donors to unrestricted endowments make the program possible.
According to Lunnam, Pathway of Hope was established to break the cycle of poverty.
“Too often poverty can be something a family has always lived in or because of unforeseen circumstances, the family can be thrust into poverty without warning. Many are living paycheck to paycheck with no source of emergency funding so we want to help families establish self-sufficiency so they can be better prepared if troubles come.”
One qualifying characteristic of Pathway of Hope participants is that they have a child in their home under the age of 18 so that the shift to self-reliance is actively modeled for the children.
“Knox County has a large population of people that rely on government assistance and help from area agencies and churches,” Lunnam added. “We see many generations of the same family come in for food together.”
Other eligibility for participation is being motivated to take action toward self-sufficiency. Program participants normally come from community referrals and families who have routinely requested assistance from The Salvation Army.
“The well-established Food Pantry and Emergency Assistance Program that The Salvation Army has conducted for years provide great opportunities to engage persons in need and to make them aware of the program and its potential impact on their families,” said Lunnam.
“We believe long-term community outcomes from this program would result in a reduction in homelessness, a reduction in bad debt/charity care among providers of goods and services, an increase in word of mouth among successful participants to encourage others, increased school attendance among participants’ children, increased pro-social community participation among program participants, and an increase in employment and education levels among participants and their children,” she added.
Families in the program work one-on-one with local case manager Kelly Britt, who talks to them about education, finances, and offers a network of support.
“Kelly is our heartbeat of getting it done,” Lunnam said. Britt works with families weekly, checking on their action steps.
Pathway of Hope’s first graduate
The Pathway of Hope program recently had its first graduate, Amanda Williams, and although she is now financially stable, she is reluctant to completely cut her ties to the program because she likes the accountability of checking in once a month.
“Before coming to the program I had just left an unstable relationship after five years. I had three kids, no job and no license. I had no friends and no one to communicate with. I felt very alone and afraid that I would not be able to provide appropriately for my children,” Williams said.
With help to pay off back traffic tickets, Williams was able to get her license back, reliable transportation and a new job, where she has now worked her way into management. She also found hope with the Salvation Army’s mental health counseling.
“It took a lot of convincing to get her there (to counseling) because it was just one crisis mode to the next crisis mode,” Lunnam said of Williams’ situation.
The Salvation Army program was able to help the woman realize her skill set and of that which she was capable. “It’s just old-fashioned casework … How can I help you help yourself,” Lunnam said.
“ I have been taught how to build healthy relationships and trust people. Most importantly I have been able to see how God works in my life and that of others. I am very grateful the Salvation Army has given me a place to call home,” Williams added.
A story of success
My name is Amanda Williams. I have been in the Pathway of Hope program for a year now. Before coming to the program I had just left an unstable relationship after five years. I had three kids, no job and no license. I had no friends and no one to communicate with. I felt very alone and afraid that I would not be able to provide appropriately for my children. Since coming to the program, I have been given exactly what the program states. I have been given Hope to overcome the Pathways that are in my life. I have gained employment and am a manager at my job. I have secured reliable transportation and housing for my children. I have been taught how to build healthy relationships and trust people. Most importantly, I have been able to see how God works in my life and that of others. I am very grateful the Salvation Army has given me a place to call home.
— Amanda Williams, first POH participant
By Melody Brunson