By Joe Reavis
The chamber of commerce brochures would lead people to believe that everyone in North Texas is enjoying an affluent life, but if that were the case there would be no need for organizations such as Community Lifeline Center of McKinney.
CLC provides temporary assistance for individuals and families to whom life as thrown a curve, whether that be loss of a job, illness, home fire, or domestic crisis.
“There will always be a need,” executive director Christine Hockin-Boyd said. “We don’t live in a perfect world.”
The organization works with clients to help them regain self-sufficiency by providing emergency assistance for housing, utilities, medical expenses and food.
CLC was founded almost 25 years ago as McKinney United Way Service Center, but within a year it was determined by organizers that the organization’s scope should be bigger and its service area was expanded to include North Collin County.
Communities served by CLC are Altoga, Anna, Blue Ridge, Celina, Copeville, Farmersville, Josephine, Lavon, Lowery Crossing, Melissa, Nevada, New Hope, Princeton, Prosper, Westminster and Weston.
Last year, the organization helped more than 300 people per month, most of whom needed assistance for one month, short-term, to overcome an immediate crisis.
“We are short-term crisis only,” administrative assistant Fran Barclay said. “Our goal is that they get back on their feet by next month.”
She explained that the unemployed seeking help are only temporarily out of work through factors beyond their control. Persons who are disgruntled and quit a job, or were fired for cause are generally not eligible for assistance.
First point of contact with CLC, through word-of-mouth, the Internet or by telephone, is information specialist Sue Benson who conducts a initial interview to determine if circumstances qualify a person for assistance with CLC, or if another organization would better fit their needs.
“They may need help that we can’t provide,” Benson says. “I try really hard to find them help in our area.”
Through familiarity, Benson can match a prospective client with another agency if needed, maybe one located closer to the client, and will provide a list of contacts with those agencies. For clients that meet CLC guidelines, the information specialists starts the application process for review by a case manager.
In addition, Benson schedules food pantry appointments and helps manage menus to be filled.
The food pantry is a multi-faceted operation from which more than 42,000 pounds of food was dispensed last year and is the heart of CLC in many respects. Orders are generated by computer from a stock of healthy foods and filled according to family size and choices.
“We are the only client-choice food pantry in the area,” Hockin-Boyd said.
She explains that when clients have the opportunity to specify foods, or to eliminate choices they do not like, less of an order will go to waste.
The shelves are restocked through donations, grant funds and weekly shipments from North Texas Food Bank. The CLC executive directors pointed out food pantry items turn over at a high rate due to demand and never are in danger of reaching expiration dates.
An extra provided by the organization is hygiene items that include deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, body lotion, feminine products and toilet tissue. Those items fill gaps that are not available through other governmental and volunteer assistance programs.
Because grant funds help stock the pantry shelves, items purchased through grants must be tracked when distributed to ensure they meet specific guidelines of a funding source. Separate storage cabinets house stock associated with different grants.
Staff accountant Rachael Weant spends her days tracking grant proceeds and distributions, preparing grant applications, logging donations and creating financial reports so that income and donations from a variety of sources makes sense.
CLC can provide clients with financial assistance to pay utility bills, rent, or even repair bills if it is determined that will help an individual or family get back on their feet. Financial assistance is limited to one time per year, although the organization is conducting a limited pilot program through which additional financial is being provided a few clients.
To help clients manage their finances and households, CLC offers a Lifesteps Training program of classes to teach how to manage money and credit through budgeting, reducing expenses, shopping smarter and stretching household dollars.
Hockin-Boyd describes the work of the organization as a wonderful place to get to know the community through the generous support given by donors, volunteers, businesses and public entities.
“I believe this place strengthens our community,” she declared.
Even though CLC was founded by a group of ministers who decided to band together to help the needed, the organization is run independently. The organization, though, maintains close ties with its Covenant Congregations, area churches who assist with CLC work and finances.
The CLC mission after almost 25 years is: “To guide individuals and families back to self sufficiency.”