What do you get when you combine many human service providers coming together to fulfill needs of Lycoming County residents? The Coordinated Services Task Force, an initiative of Lycoming County United Way (LCUW).
Created six years ago by Rosann Pelleschi, director of funds distribution and community building at LCUW, the Task Force, as it is referred to, provides the means for multiple agencies to work together to meet the needs of local residents who do not know where to go, or what questions to ask when trying on their own to get assistance.
The success of this initiative is measured by its growth. Started with six participants in 2003, the group now boasts about 60 non-profit organizations collaborating efforts to better serve county residents.
"It became apparent that many human service providers encountered situations that required the assistance of other agencies, thus initiating the Task Force," Pelleschi said.
The mission of the group is to create a coordinated network using the resources of state, county and local nonprofit service providers to meet the needs of individuals and-or families and prevent duplication of services.
"Our main goal is to coordinate services for those individuals or families with numerous and-or unusual situations," Pelleschi said.
"The need for help is continuing to increase, and our funds stay the same," said Morris Smith of Shepherd of the Streets. "Our group throws different ideas out on the table to each other, then we all collaborate on a solution, it works out very well."
Monthly meetings for the Task Force are held at the Lycoming County Assistance Office conference room every third Thursday of the month at 8:30 a.m. and is open to all non-profit organizations in Lycoming County. No formal invitation is needed to attend.
"These meetings have helped me to be better equipped with assisting my clients," said Lindsy Kendall from West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission.
The Task Force has solved numerous problems in the community. It has identified areas of need that should be addressed, and discussed how those situations could be resolved.
The Coordinated Services Task Force was recognized as the best practice statewide at the Pennsylvania Homeless Assistance Program conference in 2006. Other counties have contacted Lycoming County United Way to learn how they can do the same in their area.
Tanya Anderson of state Rep. Rick Mirabito's city office thinks the group is a great idea.
"The solution is communication and having each agency coming together working as one. If there is no communication, then the organizations and community do not know what is available to them. Openness is very important."
Collaborating with social service agencies not only helps the agency, but also those who use the services. The group effort helps make limited available funds assist as many people as possible by preventing overlap of services.
The Task Force enables numerous agencies to share useful information regarding specific topics, problems, or opportunities to help one another.
"The Task Force is a great connection for different resources or services. Many special needs are addressed on the numerous situations facing our neighbors," said Vanessa Hunter, director at Liberty House, a program of the YWCA.
"In today's world, the problem-solving roadmap has greatly changed over what might have been effective a decade ago," said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. "Collaboration is now the name of the game. In most cases, trying to do it alone is a painstakingly slow, non-cost effective process.
For more information, or to attend a Task Force meeting, contact Rosann Pelleschi at Lycoming County United Way at 323-9448 or firstname.lastname@example.org.