The Ohio Benefit Bank Newsletter June 2009

PovSimPoverty Simulation: The Value of one Hour in Poverty

Participant after participant used the phrase "eye-opening" when speaking about their Poverty Simulation experience.  After spending an hour living the simulated life of an individual in poverty, this group of Knox County residents had gained a greater sense of empathy with their struggling neighbors and came to a clearer realization of the barriers facing those in poverty. 

As part of its Financial Stability Initiative, United Way of Knox County served as host for this second Poverty Simulation held in Mount Vernon.  Following a successful event last November, United Way planned to offer a second simulation in May, targeting participation by elected officials, as well as local businesses, schools, and social service agencies. Over fifty people were present at the May 14 simulation, including the local mayor and two county commissioners (the third participated in November).  In addition to the simulation, participants learned about Knox County poverty and the resources available in their community.  Much positive feedback deems the event a success, but true success will come with the changes these participants can make at their workplaces and in their lives to better serve those in poverty.

Poverty Simulation
Mayor Richard Mavis struggles to sell his
possessions to pawn shop manager Terri Brown,
United Way Volunteer.                                                 Knox County Commissioner Bob Wise 
                                                                                    finds himself in jail for vagrancy.


VISTA LogoThis summer, the AmeriCorps*VISTA program at OASHF will be one of
the few VISTA programs in the state of Ohio to offer a Summer Associate program.

This program is an intensive 8-week service opportunity at a local summer feeding program. Those who complete their term successfully will receive $1,000 towards a college education. We are proud to announce that we will be placing 57 Summer VISTAs at 12 summer feeding sites all over the state of Ohio. Our summer feeding sites are community places that help feed the 500,000 kids who depend on the school meal program every year in Ohio. They provide kids with a place to get a healthy meal and enjoy activities to help them learn and develop during the summer months. Our VISTAs will be helping to coordinate and serve the meals, conduct the activities, and promote the site as a community resource to area residents.

If you have further questions about the summer program, please contact Amanda Cowgill at (614) 221-4336.

AMYOASHF AmeriCorps*VISTA Amy Swart Honored For Her Service

On May 9th, OASHF AmeriCorps*VISTA member Amy Swart had the privilege of representing VISTA at the AmeriCorps week dedication held at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.  The dedication was held prior to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game, where the crowd was over 40,000.  Of the seven AmeriCorps members honored, Amy was the only VISTA in the group.  "I really felt honored," She remarked proudly, "this is a once in a lifetime event. It was all very structured - we even needed field clearance - but it was fun."
Amy even got to walk through the famous tunnel leading to the field.  Once on the field, Amy was instructed on where to stand, then given instructions to listen for her name and wave at the crowd when it was called.  What they didn't tell her was that when they announced her name, her picture would show up on the video screen.   Amy recalled "It was so great!  This is another VISTA memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life."

CrisisSummer Crisis Program Begins July 1

The 2009 summer crisis program is fast approaching. This year the program will run from July 1st through August 31st. In order to receive assistance through this program for help with air conditioning costs, the applicant must be income eligible with a household member who has an illness and would benefit from assistance, verified by physician documentation.  If the applicant is 60 or older, no physician documentation is needed.

This year, the SCP will pay a maximum benefit of $175 to eligible clients to be used towards payment of a client's bill, the purchase of an air conditioner, and/or assistance in purchasing a fan.  Clients should contact their local Community Action Agency to apply for the summer crisis program.

SNCCommittee Increases OASHF & OBB Internet Presence

Throughout the month of May, the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks' neBlogger Facebook Logowly formed Social Networking Committee has worked tirelessly to increase the Association's Internet presence.

The Committee, which features representatives from the Ohio Benefit Bank, the AmeriCorps*VISTA program, and the foodbank side of the operation, has moved forward with a strategy of creating new media that is informative and easily accessible to the general public.

The first step in this strategy was to create interesting blogs that detailed what OASHF was focused on at any given time. Two of those sites are already public. Second Harvest's blog can be found at The OASHF site features a newsfeed that updates whenever OASHF is in the news, as well as announcements alerting readers to OASHF events (such as the rally on June 4). We are also able to post up-to-the-date unemployment and poverty statistics to highlight the growing need for food.

The second public site focuses on the The Ohio Benefit Bank Mobile Express and can be found at This blog will focus on the day-to-day travels of the Mobile Enrollment Specialists as they see firsthand the need in different areas of the state. This blog already features multimedia such as a television interview with Mobile Enrollment Specialist Erin Sprouse.

The third blog is still in development. It will focus on the VISTA program and the ins-and-outs of service at OASHF. Hopefully this site will increase awareness of the VISTA program and all of the benefits it provides.

The Social Networking Committee is also utilizing popular web programs like Facebook and Twitter to create an interactive environment for those interested in The OBB to get the scoop on the goings on of our offices. You can follow our Facebook page at this link.

For constant updates, the Social Networking Committee suggests checking out the OASHF/OBB Twitter account at this link. While our Twitter account will feature many of the same updates as the Facebook page and the three blogs, Twitter provides us a way to release that information efficiently under one umbrella site.

Despite only being in existence for one month, the Social Networking Committee has made great strides to elevate OASHF from one excellent website to a community of sites that can educate and entertain. By following these sites, we hope that one can get a better understanding of all the good work that's done by OASHF.

StudioOASHF National Service Team Partners with Local Theater During AmeriCorps Week

AmeriCorps Week, May 9-16th, is an opportunity to recognize Americorps members and alumni and spread the word about national service. 

This year the OASHF National Service Team partnered with Studio 35 Cinema in Columbus to provide a free screening of Wolverine for any AmeriCorps members and alumni who showed up wearing Americorps gear.  Americorps members who attended enjoyed ice cream provided by Jeni's and saw a free movie in appreciation of their service.

Studio 35 Event

Conference Logo
clientspotClient Spotlight: Milton, the artist
Charles Stough, OBB Counseor, City Heart, Dayton

An accomplished commercial artist with a thick portfolio of posters, brochures and other artworks, Milton's work has been admired by his many clients for years. He has a professional studio in his home with the latest in computerized graphics management tools and software. His wife Shelly works at a large chain department store and has risen in the corporate ladder.  They have 10 children, two of them in college.
It was a blow when the economy went bad. Milton's business-to-business clientele reduced their graphics budgets, and some of his oldest clients went out of business or couldn't pay the bills. Shelly's employer closed the store, and offered a job at another site if she would be willing to commute. She does that, but the expense is higher.

Milton had not considered food assistance since the birth of his third child, 15 years ago, and then used the help only temporarily. But present-day circumstances drove him to ask for temporary aid from his neighborhood church, where church staffers had attended an Ohio Benefit Bank demonstration less than a week before.

The results: A referral to a Benefit Bank site at another church, a food assistance application and a HEAP application too. And Milton's neighborhood church is recruiting volunteers to take OBB training to help people directly.

"It was my personal record application," said Milton's OBB counselor. "The family is getting more than $800 a month."

Client Spotlight: Dennis, the Visitor who Stayed in Ohio
Charles Stough, OBB Counselor, City Heart, Dayton

Dennis took a break from his work in the kitchen of a thriving California restaurant to come to Ohio and visit his daughter Marilyn. While enjoying the long-term reunion he joined the staff at a Dayton ethnic dining spot specializing in haute-cuisine Spanish dishes. Before he knew it, three years had passed.

Then his daughter moved from the state, the Ohio restaurant found itself in a tough economy and cut back his hours, and he learned that his former California employer wasn't hiring.

"I was stranded here," Dennis laughed. It wasn't a bad place to be stranded, but there are fewer restaurants demanding knowledge of paella and gazpacho. He was hospitalized for a time. Taxes and expenses mounted.

Dennis visited an Ohio Benefit Bank site, where his application for food assistance revealed he was eligible for about $200 a month. During the process he saw the other services that the OBB can do for him.

"Oh, you do taxes?" he asked. "I haven't filed in about four years."

Instantly he had an appointment for a tax session at the same OBB site -- a very long session, and probably fairly profitable.

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