Ripley County Coalition hears from area agencies

Karen Reynolds, Contributing Writer

Agencies who provide a myriad of assistance for citizens in the area came together with the newly formed Ripley County Coalition recently to brainstorm on how they can work together to become even more effective.

Represented at the January meeting at St. John’s Catholic Church in Osgood were: LifeTime Resources, Purdue Extension Office, The Clearing House, Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry, the Upper Room Fellowship, Westfork Baptist Church, Family Connections, Heart House, the South Ripley Ministerial Association, SIEOC, St. John’s Catholic Church, and the Ripley County Coalition.
Dawn McReynolds with the Ripley County Coalition stated the goals of the coalition were to find affordable transportation for families who need to go to various appointments, addressed the issue of finding out what is available for the large homeless population, and the need for the coalition to secure non-profit status. She stated, “This is a vital time for this coalition.”

The mission of the coalition is to develop and implement plans to help church leaders, human service organizations, and non-profits to work together in order to create a successful community. The team will identify, promote, and coordinate community based programs that encourage benevolence from local churches, non-profit organizations, and human service agencies to help those Ripley County residents living in poverty.

At the meeting, specific responsibilities including time commitments, personal qualities of possible members and what opportunities those serving on the coalition could expect, were given.
Various groups represented gave overviews of their agency.

LifeTime Resources:
Julie Schaefer gave an update on LifeTime Resources, an area agency that focuses on the needs of the aging population by serving Dearborn, Decatur, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley and Switzerland counties.

The Catch-A-Ride program is available to meet the transportation needs of the aging and anyone else who needs a ride. There are guidelines for this service. LifeTime Resources can be contacted at 1-800-742-5001 or 812-432-5215 for details. This agency has been in operation for over 30 years and started the Catch-A-Ride program in 2002.

What number do you call to address needs such as food, shelter, housing, employment, health care, counseling, clothing and education? It’s as simple as 211. You can also visit for details. Their call center has a database of about 900 agencies listing all kinds of assistance available.

Clearing House:
Another community update was given by Debby Black concerning the Clearing House in Dearborn County, which serves the same areas as LifeTime Resources. Their goal is to provide nutrition needs for residents. They specialize in helping to take care of the home and the needs of those who are hungry. They also help with utilities and rent. They offer special programs at the holidays, Thanksgiving food boxes and a Christmas meal.

The Aurora office is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and their Lawrenceburg office is open on Tuesday and Thursday. This agency, according to Black, is flexible and open to the community needs.

Southeastern Indiana Economic Opportunity Corporation (SIEOC) works with other agencies and is another community resource. SIEOC actually has a resource manual in place that lists local, state, and federal resources available to those in need in a five county area, including Ripley.

Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry
Those attending the meeting heard from Carl Moore concerning the work he does with the Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry in Osgood. Many felt this was a well-kept secret and suffers from not being able to get the word out concerning their services. Moore felt that the basic reason for this situation is the fact that there are no funds available to them for advertising.

Heart House:
Craig Beckley spoke about the services offered by the Heart House, the only homeless shelter for Ohio, Switzerland, Franklin, Ripley and Dearborn counties.

Since opening in 2002, they have served 1500 homeless people as a rural shelter. It is not unusual for them to serve 60 people for breakfast and they often have as many as 20 children at a time living there, according to Beckley. They exist to solve the problem of homelessness.

Heart House is more than a shelter; it is a place of second chances.

There are some basic rules. Persons coming into the home provide identification so that a police check can be done. Two basic rules are: respect and the need for lifestyle change.

They are expected to acquire and keep a job. They then pay a small rent to the agency, helping them learn about bill paying. Heart House does not tolerate drug abuse. In the past three years, 316 people were eligible for work, 210 secured employment, giving Heart House a 66% placement rate. “Sometimes,” Beckley said, “people make mistakes and need a place where they get a second chance, and maybe even a third and fourth chance.”

According to Beckley, they are full at this time, but can always find a place for someone. They never want to turn anyone away.

South Ripley Ministerial Association:
Roger Dean representing the South Ripley Ministerial Association, reminded all present that the ministerial association is there to help in the local area of South Ripley. Each case is decided on an individual basis. They are a clearing house, of sorts, giving out funds as needed. Contact information can be found by contacting the Versailles First Baptist Church office, open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until noon.

Westfork Baptist Church:
David Blazier of the Westfork Baptist Church told the group that their church is a site for Angel Food Ministries as well as the Upper Room Fellowship and C.I. Worship Center.

St. John’s Catholic Church:
Jessica Gorman, education coordinator for St. John’s Catholic Church said their church offers a Christmas dinner every year and hosts AA and ALANON meetings monthly.

The various agencies represented a host of services available to residents in need. McReynolds stressed unity between all the different agencies is vitally important.

The next meeting for the coalition has been set for March 17 at 8:30 a.m. at the New Marion Baptist Church.