by Geoff Fox
In 1989, an organization was started to help Hancock residents who were in need for food, clothing, shelter, or assistance with bills. Thirty years later, Interfaith Service Coalition has become a Hancock staple.
ISC started in 1989 when a group of churches, service providers, and civic groups got together and decided they could not meet the needs of the Hancock community on their own.
The original office for ISC was in Town Hall and what is now considered a dressing room for the stage.
Director Debbie Cohill said at the time, Buddy Wachter was the mayor at the time and his wife Della was on the first ISC board.
“I guess she had a little influence there with the town to get a donated office space,” Cohill said. She added rent for the space was one dollar a year.
Having that space added credibility to the fledgling organization.
“We have always been grateful to the Town of Hancock for giving us our start, having a permanent physical address,” Cohill said.
When ISC first started 30 years ago, Ken Boheim was the first director. Jane McCauley and Cohill followed him as director.
Over the years there have some good and bad stories that have come out of ISC.
Cohill said one horror story is there are no mental health facilities and anyone with a need gets referred to ISC.
“Sadly you get those situations that we aren’t prepared to handle and those are mental health issues because we don’t have a program for that,” she said.
Cohill said the organization has attempted to reach out for someone in the mental health field, but when ISC gets someone with that need it’s usually someone who is a transient.
There have also been some success stories and it starts with how those folks come in to ISC.
Cohill said she does a thorough “intake” to find out why they are in the situation they’re in and figure out how to help.
There are grants, such as a FEMA grant, that help with a person’s first month rent and electric bill.
It also helps with utilities termination prevention, eviction protection, and first month rent.
“In order to help people get on their feet and stay on their feet, we have to ask a lot of questions,” Cohill said.
When asked how many people ISC has helped over the 30 years, Cohill couldn’t say exactly, but it’s been “a lot of people.”
She also feels ISC has had a “significant” financial impact on the Hancock community.
In the time she’s been with ISC, Cohill said they have passed the $1.5 million mark in grants.
That money has gone into the different ventures and also into the community.
Cohill has seen people move to Hancock thinking they’ll be able to live cheaper and find a better life, but the job opportunities are more limited and those people move away.
“As much as I would like to say that our numbers are going down, they’re not,” Cohill said.
There are eight programs ISC operates now:
– Good Samaritan House, which serves as transitioning housing for victims of disaster,
–Loaves and Fishes Thrift Store, which is a volunteer effort with proceeds to help fund other ISC programs,
— resources that allow staff to spend time with clients, a majority of whom are in crisis, and offer support, help, and direction,
— S.H.I.P. (Self Help in Partnership), a food program where low income families supplement their monthly food budget with additional nutritious foods for a small monthly cost,
— Adventures in Friendship, which offers life skills training to middle school aged youth and runs the last full week of June,
— Keep a Senior Safe and Warm that provides instruction and offers resources to help keep senior citizens safer and warmer inside and outside their homes,
— Micah’s Backpacks which is designed to feed hungry students, Martha’s House which is the newest project from ISC and is a youth center and feeding site,
–Financial Literacy through ISC’s partnership with REACH of Washington County and the United Way of Washington County.
Of those, Loaves and Fishes, Good Samaritan House, and Martha’s house have come to define ISC over the years. T organization is continuing to find needs in the community and Cohill says ISC has added to the programming over the years.
“As we add programs, we become more well known,” Cohill said.
ISC has grown a lot since 1989 and Cohill said there is one thing the organization needs because of that growth – volunteers.
The biggest need for help is at the thrift stores, she said.
If anyone would like to become a volunteer with ISC or have ideas for programs, they can contact the organization via ISC’s or Martha’s House Facebook page or call Cohill at 301-331-6605 or email email@example.com.
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Interfaith Service Coalition.