Representatives from the county, senior services, Crossroads and various churches come together to share what need in order to offer the most benefits for families and individuals without duplication. Gary Felt shares the purpose of the committee at the first meeting one year ago. Photo by Glenda Svendsen

Benevolence Committee increases reach of area services

March marks the one year anniversary of Susanville’s Benevolence Committee.

For the uninitiated, the committee consists of churches and other entities throughout Lassen County that offer emergency services for families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet.

The committee was launched due to efforts by Salvation Army Field Representative, Logistics and Technology Lead Juanita Williams, Susanville police officer Terra Avilla and Sunrise Rotary Community Service Chair Gary Felt.

“Our community needed a benevolent association to ensure that local funding stretches as far as possible. When area churches, service organizations and social services agencies get together, they share what they are offering to people in need, allowing us to meet more unmet needs in our community,” said Williams.

A major advantage to the collaboration has been bringing all the churches together and learning what services they are providing so that the resources can work together to cover different needs such as gas, utilities and/or food.

For example, when a family of eight left Reno because they couldn’t make ends meet, even though the father was working, the County Housing Authority and the Salvation Army were able to work with one of the local churches to cover their moving costs and temporary housing until established housing was obtained, Williams said.

“Salvation Army has the ability to provide a month of groceries for the struggling family,” said Williams. “We have been able to do that for this family on three occasions. In fact, another time the father showed up after hours, and I was able to provide groceries including eggs, ham and other supplies, directly from our center. The man was so grateful he gave me a big hug.”

The committee also opens up lines of communication in order to avoid duplication of services. Lassen County has several different programs to provide toys at Christmas, and the monthly meeting allows for planning the most efficient distribution to extend the reach to more children and families.

Because services change due to available funds within entities, or may evolve due to the acquisition of a grant, meeting monthly provides an opportunity to update changes and share what each organization is doing.

The meetings are held on the fourth Thursday of each month at 1 p.m. at the Senior Center. Any person, group or agency is welcome to attend.

“I walk away from each meeting with knowledge of a resource or an answered question which enables me to better serve our clients,” said Williams