By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Human Services has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1955 when a local family lost their home in a fire and the town responded by forming Emergency Assistance and Adopt-A-Family programs.
Over the course of 65 years, more programs, such as senior transportation and the food pantry, were added as need and the population grew. Community/ Senior Outreach now include Adopt-A-Family.
“The scope and depth at which we can impact those in our immediate area has made CW Human Services a hub of compassion in Canal Winchester, meeting people ‘where they are in life’ in very practical and meaningful ways,” said Canal Winchester Human Services Director Aletha Mullins.
Last year, staff changes found Mullins promoted from operations manager to director. Shortly thereafter, two new staff members were hired to oversee daily operations and provide communications and grant writing support for the organization as a whole.
“A specific challenge we faced in 2019 had to do with revamping the digital face of our organization with a redesigned website and more intentional use of media such as Facebook,” said Mullins. “We are a hub of so many events and activities with connections to so many people, and we found we needed to connect and communicate what we are doing in more intentional and sometimes real-time ways.”
In December, human services needed children’s coats for its annual Adopt-A-Family program, and, within 24 hours of posting the need on the organization’s Facebook page, more than 50 coats were donated overnight in its drop box.
Emergency Assistance provides financial help towards utility shut-off and rent/mortgage eviction situations. In 2019, 21 families were provided assistance.
Senior Transportation fulfills a variety of needs, from medical appointments to personal trips. Group trips are scheduled every week to four local groceries in the community. In 2019, 4,123 one-way trips were driven for a total of 33,284 miles.
The Community Food Pantry is a designated Choice Pantry where clients have the opportunity to shop for preferred foods twice a month and up to a total of 30 meals per family each month.
Under the umbrella of the food pantry, low-income students within the school district are also served through the Feeding Our Future weekend backpack program, which provides food to these students throughout the school year by sending food home each Friday.
In 2019, the Choice Pantry served 5,573 individuals and 77,147 meals were provided overall. Over 100 students were given weekend food through the backpack program, for a total of 2,492 meals.
Nearly 300 individuals and 72 families—including 208 children—were served in 2019 through Community and Senior Outreach, which assists the youngest to the oldest within the Canal Winchester community.
Programs include once-a-month senior lunches at the Steube Community Center; Tools for School, which assists students throughout the year; and, Adopt-a-Family, which provides gifts, clothing and all the “fixin’s” for a family Christmas dinner.
“An ongoing challenge that any non-profit organization faces on a yearly basis is in finding the balance between funding the various programs within the organization while also seeking and acquiring funds for operational costs that are not always provided for with program-specific grants and donations,” said Mullins. “We have found that many people use our programs, but they don’t realize the full scope of what we do across the board.”
At the end of 2019, Destination:Canal Winchester held their first annual Reindeer Run with proceeds directly benefiting the Adopt-A-Family program. Mullins said there are two other fundraisers on the horizon that will also support Adopt-A-Family and other outreaches as well.
“In general, our new staff will be reaching out to churches and organizations to maintain and/or strengthen our partnerships and potential impact in our community,” said Mullins. “People can find out about our organization, programs, and events at www.cwhumanservices.org, at facebook.com/cwhumanservices, or call 614-834-4700.”