Open Hearth was featured in Limerick Living magazine as a Non-Profit Spotlight. This feature showcases a local nonprofit in our community to raise awareness of all the good they do, highlighting its cause.
Groups reach across county lines to help Mont Clare residents cope with flood devastation.
Imagine having no choice but to spend your chemotherapy money on a trash dumpster for the debris covering your property. Or settling in a new country with your family, only to end up with your home destroyed and no insurance.
Those were just two of the situations facing Mont Clare, Pa., residents after Hurricane Ida and its accompanying floods. Nearly two months later, more than 150 households are still coping with homes left uninhabitable.
Fortunately, Mont Clare has concerned neighbors who are eager to help, and two grants will go a long way toward assisting them in that mission.
- Open Hearth, Inc., a non-profit organization serving Chester County and portions of Montgomery County, received $300,000 from the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation to help Mont Clare residents affected by Ida get their systems back up, including electricity, heating, and water.
- The Jaycees in Phoenixville received $15,000 for the organization’s “In This Together PXV Fund” – originally intended to assist with the Covid pandemic, recently pivoted to benefit victims of Hurricane Ida as well.
Soon after Ida hit, a partnership in the neighboring borough of Phoenixville came together with the intent of helping victims on the other side of the river separating Chester and Montgomery counties. Participants include Open Hearth, the Jaycees, the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, and Karin Williams, director of the Phoenixville Office ofEmergency Management.
“Phoenixville is fortunate to have the kind of strong community partnerships that enable us to lend a hand to our MontClare and Port Providence neighbors in their time of need,” Williams said.
Kelly Raggazino, Executive Director – Open Hearth, Inc., 610-792-9282, ext. 202, [email protected]
Erica Klinedinst, Executive Director – Phoenixville Jaycees Foundation, (717)-683-4274, [email protected]
Karin Williams, Director – Phoenixville Office of Emergency Management, 610-933-8801, ext. 120, [email protected]
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Open Hearth, Inc., a leader in resource coordination and community building efforts, provides innovative programs to support and empower people to end the cycle of homelessness, acquire affordable housing, a means of transportation, workforce opportunities, and achieve financial stability.
The Phoenixville Jaycees provide development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change in their communities and support the good efforts of exempt organizations in and around Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
Open Hearth partners to provide rent and utility assistance to those in need
“I am a business professional and have been working in this great country and never needed help. I can’t thank [Homelessness Prevention Manager] Cory and her team enough for the help and support given during my time of need in my life.”– Michael, Open Hearth client
Michael is not alone as someone who has been employed their whole life, never needing to access safety net programs to get by until the pandemic hit last year. Covid-19 changed that reality for millions of Americans. Record numbers of layoffs in early 2020 created a new, difficult reality for many individuals and families who faced unprecedented financial challenges. Others became ill or had to care for family members who were ill, requiring an unpaid leave from work.
At the start of 2021 Open Hearth was approached by Chester County’s Department of Community Development with the opportunity to become a contracted partner for the US Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). We were awarded a $2.7 million contract in April that was increased to a total of $3.7 million in July. ERAP’s goal is to provide rental and utility assistance to households impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 99.2 percent of funds go directly towards client rent and utility payments. In a little over five months, Open Hearth has provided over $1.7 million in direct relief.
And it’s not just tenants who are expressing their appreciation for the lifeline ERAP provides. ERAP requires the participation of landlords to receive rental assistance. One landlord who owns several units in Phoenixville wrote to us to share his gratitude for the program, and his gratitude for the Open Hearth staff who helped facilitate the application process.
As he put it, “I was struggling to survive, my tenants were struggling to pay the rent, and I had to give them breaks—pass on collecting rent sometimes. Everyone was frustrated. I kept on struggling until one day someone told us about Open Hearth and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. I knew that there was hope and that someone out there was willing to help, and this is exactly what happened. I want to take this opportunity to thank our government and each one of you at Open Hearth…for the great job and effort that they put into my case to help my tenants and secure a safe home for them. I was also saved from defaulting on my mortgage. Big thanks to you guys—you made us proud by working hard to improve our society and spread good faith and hope in our hearts.”
Matched savings and personal financial workshops helped Amber reach her goals
Chester County resident Amber had a dream to attain a degree in the nursing field. As a single mom of two, Amber faced many challenges along the path to reaching that dream. She worked full-time and supported her two children—all while attending classes.
Amber was thrilled she could save $1,000 and receive a $3,000 match to pay for her final semester without taking out a loan.
Even with the many hats she had to wear, graduating with a bachelors in allied health from Immaculata University remained the number one goal for Amber. On top of time constraints, she was concerned about the challenges of the pandemic and how to pay for school. After learning of Open Hearth’s Family Savings Partner Program, Amber was thrilled to discover that if she saved $1,000 she could receive a $3,000 match to pay for her final semester, without taking out a loan.
Amber saved $1,000 and attended personal financial workshops to complete the Family Savings Program. The financial education helped her create a monthly budget that identified expenses she could cut back or eliminate. She also learned about investing and saving for the future.
Amber graduated from Immaculata University in the spring of 2021. She says she achieved the goal for herself, and for her children and family, who supported her as she made sacrifices to attain this monumental achievement in her life.
Amber expressed tremendous gratitude for the Family Savings Partner Program and hopes that others who need financial assistance for college will also take advantage of this resource.
Open Hearth’s Family Savings Partner Program is funded with support from the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
Like any single parent to two school-aged children, Amanda was used to juggling a lot: school schedules and activities, playdates, two part-time jobs – including one in the restaurant industry – the list goes on. Amanda was already struggling to make ends meet when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Like millions of other Americans, Amanda was laid off from both of her positions. She immediately applied for unemployment compensation, but she still hadn’t received confirmation of her eligibility, let alone any benefits, by the time rent was due. There was an eviction moratorium in place, but her landlord was still pressuring her to pay up.
The support of individuals, foundations, and corporate partners made it possible to quickly ex- tend help to Amanda and her family. With donated funds, Open Hearth was able to pay Amanda’s April rent, giving her some breathing room until the backlog of unemployment filings could be processed. This also took away some stress so Amanda could focus on getting internet service for her kids’ virtual schooling and support them through these trying times.
Donors’ generosity provided critical funding for another single parent in our community. David had been working as a chef when all business came to an abrupt halt. Like Amanda, David’s unemployment benefits were delayed, and he was coming up short when it was time to pay his rent. Open Hearth was able to direct donated funds to David’s landlord to ensure David and his young daughter could remain stably housed.
Over the past six months, Open Hearth has been able to meet the urgent needs of dozens of families who lost income and were struggling to remain in their homes. We’ve also been able to help with budgeting, goal setting, and social service referrals so each client has a plan to move forward.
It takes a lot of determination and resiliency to regain a sense of independence once it has been lost due to a disability. It had been over five years since Phoenixville resident Chris had his own vehicle. Without one, getting to doctors’ appointments, picking up groceries, and even visiting his grandchildren had become difficult. As someone on a fixed income, Chris was especially grateful to learn about Open Hearth’s Family Savings Partner Program (FSP) and his eligibility to participate in this matched savings program. FSP helps those saving for a car, first home, or education by offering a match for every dollar saved.
“Thanks for all you have done for me and all the people you have helped.“
For seven months, Chris diligently made monthly deposits into his individual development account (IDA) to reach his goal of saving $1,000. Along the way, Chris participated in Open Hearth’s free financial education on topics relevant to his savings goal, such as Car Buying – Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat and Good Credit – How to Get It (workshops are now offered virtually). Program staff also worked directly with Chris to develop a budget that would afford him a cushion so that he’ll have the funds available to keep his car in good repair.
After completing all the program requirements, Chris was eligible for $1,000 in matching funds. Along with his savings, this was enough for Chris to purchase a new-to-him car that will get him to wherever he needs to go. Upon reaching his goal, Chris felt such a sense of accomplishment and empowerment and expressed how this vehicle will allow him to decrease his reliance on others and increase his sense of autonomy. Moreover, Chris acknowledged how beneficial it was for him to participate in the financial education because he felt armed with the knowledge and confidence to make an informed purchase.
Open Hearth thanks all the donors who made Chris’s success story possible!
Already raised more than 65 percent of $1M goal
SPRING CITY, Pennsylvania, (September 1, 2021) – Open Hearth, Inc. is announcing the public phase of its capital campaign “Home Is Where the Hearth Is” to raise funds for the renovation of the nonprofit’s new headquarters in Phoenixville, PA. The building, located at 701 S. Main Street, will serve as home to Open Hearth’s programs and community building initiatives, with the objective of fostering a stronger, healthier community for generations to come. To date, Open Hearth has raised over $650,000; more than 65 percent of its $1 million capital campaign goal.
In 2019, Open Hearth’s Board of Directors recognized the organization had outgrown its current location. As the need for services has expanded, additional staff have been added. While searching for a new rental space, Open Hearth connected with two Phoenixville residents, Janice and Paul Hartmann. When the Hartmanns learned of the organization’s need, they decided to make the most generous donation—a 4,000 square foot building located on one acre of property in the center of Phoenixville.
“The new building will be a place of hope for our clients and partners as they are welcomed into a location that is both accessible and inspirational,” said Kelly Raggazino, Open Hearth’s Executive Director. “Our new home will reflect the high standards of service set by Open Hearth’s staff, funders, and collaborators.”
The building is in need of repairs to bring it up to today’s codes and standards. Funds raised in the “Home Is Where the Hearth Is” campaign will be used to make these critical repairs.
Located in Phoenixville, the new property provides easy access and parking, increased foot traffic, and close proximity to many partner agencies. In the new location staff will be on one floor, whereas they are currently divided between two floors and 45 steps. Additional meeting space and room to grow are just a few of the additional benefits of the new space.
Lead supporters of the campaign include The Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, Chester County Department of Community Development, The McLean Contributionship, Univest, and First Cornerstone Foundation.
Open Hearth began renovations of the property in June of 2021. The project is expected to be complete in late fall 2021.
Those interested in donating can do so by visiting www.openhearthinc.org/2021-capital-campaign/
ABOUT OPEN HEARTH As Open Hearth celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, they remain committed to meeting the needs of vulnerable members of the community from diverse racial, cultural, and geographic backgrounds. Along with other programs, Open Hearth’s staff helps low-income families and individuals find and maintain permanent housing; develop personalized budgets that create financial stability; or work towards the purchase of a car, higher education, or a first home. Open Hearth serves residents of Chester County and portions of western Montgomery County. As a recent client shared in appreciation of the assistance they received, “Thank you so much for everything you have done for me…you really have made a difference in my life.”