The Ohio Benefit Bank Newsletter January 2010
VISTAAre You a VISTA Alum?

VISTA LogoThis year VISTA is celebrating its 45th anniversary. The Corporation for National & Community Service Ohio State Office is planning some exciting events and activities to remember 45 years of VISTA in our state.

Some highlights of our plans include:
 - Kick off event during AmeriCorps Week in May.
 - 45 Service projects focused on the Feeding a Neighbor Initiative planned by alumni, current members and community members taking place from May to 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.
 - A yearbook of VISTA alums in Ohio.
The CNCS Ohio State Office in partnership with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks is working to find all the VISTA alumni in the state for our celebration.
Please take a few moments and respond to the questions below. Responses should be sent to by January 31, 2010.                                              
            When did you serve:
            Where are you located now (City):
            What is your current occupation:
            Would you be willing to help with the 45th anniversary events:
            E-mail address or other contact information:
Also, if you are interested in reconnecting with other alumni visit the CNCS AmeriCorps VISTA Alumni Facebook group and the VISTA Alums in Ohio Facebook group!
powerFaster Version of TBB Software Now Available

In mid-December the OBB launched a new version of the software - TBB Power User. 
Power User utilizes drop-down menus and condensed screens allowing counselors to move through modules more rapidly and complete benefit applications in a shorter amount of time.  For detailed information click here.  If you are a current counselor and wish to become a Power User, complete and submit the application, available through the link below:
If you have questions, write to

spotCounselor Spotlight: Monisha Fuller, Columbus APA

MonishaThe Columbus Region Adult Parole Authority (APA) welcomed AmeriCorps member Monisha Fuller in September 2009.   Through the HarvestCorps Project, sponsored by the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, Monisha serves as a full-time, on-site Benefit Bank counselor.

Monisha quickly earned the #1 rank on the HarvestCorps team, comprised of over 20 Benefit Bank counselors working in agencies throughout the state.  In her first four months, she served over 110 APA clients, assisting them with applying for
benefits and work supports such as food stamps, Medicaid, and utility assistance.

Monisha is especially proud to be sitting behind her desk at the APA, because she once sat on the other side of that desk.  She is not ashamed to admit that she served time in prison.  Following her incarceration, she participated in Rachel's House, a Christian transitional housing program for ex-offenders.  Monisha recognizes the special opportunity she has been given.  Her attitude is future-focused, and her actions throughout the past year demonstrate her growth and her determination to live a good and positive life.

In addition to her "day job," Monisha takes classes at Columbus State Community College with a goal of earning her Associates Degree in 2011. 

childImportant Information Regarding Child Support for Parents with Employment Changes

As we well know, many families and individuals now are experiencing drastic employment changes. With that in mind, we encourage you to reach out to families regarding their child support.
A flier is available for download and distribution by clicking on the following link:
Help is available for families to have their child support order adjusted to reflect their change in earnings. See the flier for more information.
Please encourage your families to maintain contact with their local Child Support Enforcement Agency during this difficult economy.

pilotFranklin County Pilot Allows Clients to Access Benefits Quickly

In Franklin County the Ohio Benefit Bank is trying something new.  Throughout 2009 the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services and a handful of OBB sites worked together to get people benefits faster by expanding the existing partnership.  Counselors at OBB Enhanced Sites complete applications for benefit programs a then contact a case worker who is assigned to process applications generated by OBB.  The case worker is able to check for verifications that client sessionare already on file and begin to process the individual's case immediately.  When a the client meets a hardship they are scheduled for a phone interview to complete the intake process, in some cases a face-to-face interview is scheduled.  OBB counselors help clients submit their document verifications. 

The process allows for clients to connect with benefits more quickly and with less confusion. The case worker is able to rely on the OBB counselors to help clients through the process.  The pilot project has been successful to date and may be expanding to more sites in Franklin County.  For more information please contact Zach Reat, Central Ohio Regional Coordinator, 614-221-4336, ext. 236.
Pictured above: Counselor Jerry Lee
walks a client through the "Enhanced" Site process

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amyClient Spotlight: Amy's Story
Emily Forsee, OBB Counselor, Direct Service Office, Columbus

Last week I had a client walk-in to the Direct Service Office named "Amy" who had just gotten out of the hospital. She was very private and tentative about being there, but after talking with her awhile she began to open up and told me about her life.

Amy served two tours in Iraq, got back about 18 months ago and immediately began living with and caring for her father. Due to their various health conditions, Amy's funds quickly dried up. To add to her problems, she was laid off from her part time job. She attempted to go to school, where she received a 4.0 her first quarter, but has since had to stop attending for financial reasons.

At the end of her application she was speaking freely to me about her situation and said "[she] didn't know how she was going to continue to manage." She seemed exhausted and when I asked her if she needed to take a break  she told me that she couldn't afford to wait any longer. Amy had just gotten out of the hospital because she was sick and weak and had frequently fainted. They told her that her nutrient levels were so low, they were "undetectable." Her Vitamin D level in particular was low enough that she was actually losing the pigment in her skin. When I asked her what she had been eating she said that she had been living off of peanut butter and crackers for a few months, but had run out of peanut butter several weeks before.  She had not been to a foodbank, and seemed almost surprised when I asked her. Amy had never in her life applied for any benefits, and after talking with her I began to realize that she simply wasn't aware that there was help out there.

We were able to complete an application allowing Amy to interview for expedited food stamps. It was late in the day, but my supervisor was able to call a nearby food bank and get them to agree to take her in an hour after they closed. I rummaged through our office fridge and found some things for her to eat right then and there and a few things to take with her, but when she left I couldn't help but feel that it wasn't enough.

The problem of hunger is real. I am still just dumbfounded every time I meet someone that simply doesn't have any food! The thought is so foreign to most of us that it is almost inconceivable for us to imagine what it is actually like to want for a basic necessity.
Meeting Amy made me realize how important support is at every step of the way. Immediate, short term, and long term assistance are all equally crucial elements to ending struggles such as hunger, housing, and medical assistance. If we let just one of these steps slide, a whole group of people slide with it, and this has never been more apparent to me than when I watched Amy walk out the door.
granteesCongratulations to Our Award Recipients!

Applications for funding through The Ohio Benefit Bank for capacity building and tax services exceeded $3.5 million, and the amount of grant funds available was $750,000. This was a very competitive process!  Thank you to all who applied and, again, congratulations to the Tax Assistance Capacity Building Grant recipients!

Accountability and Credibility Together (ACT)
Adams Brown Counties Economic Opportunities Inc
Ashtabula county Community Action Agency
CAIN - Churches Active in Northside
Caring Connection
Catholic Charities Diocese of Toledo
Catholic Charities of SouthWestern Ohio
Coaching Dreams into Success
Community Action Commission of Fayette County
Cornerstone Free Methodist Church
Crawford County Job and Family Services
Deaf Community Resource Center
Defiance College
East Columbus Development Company, inc
El Centro de Servicios Solciales, Inc
Episcopal Community Services Foundation
Gallia-Meigs Community Action Agency
Grand Lake Theatrix Community Theatre Association
Greene Metropolitan Housing Authority
HARCATUS Tri-County Community Action
Jackson-Vinton community Action, Inc
Liberty Church of God DBA Liberty Freedom Center
Linferion Foundation
Medina County Job and Family Services
Mind, Body and Soul Asset Development Center
Ministry for Community
Oaks Family Care Center
Oberlin Community Services
Oxford Talawanda Community Services dba The Family Resource Center
Project Nehemiah
Sandusky Bay Area Goodwill Industries
Services To Area Youth, Inc.
Shining Reflections Program
Summit County Department of Job and Family services
Sunday Creek Associates dba Holland Center
The Empowerment Center of Greater Cleveland
The New Path, Inc.
The Potter's House Ministries, Inc.
The Salvation Army of Marion
The Salvation Army Northwest Ohio Area Services
The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
The Way Station
Toledo Hearing and Speech Center
United Way of Knox County, Ohio, Inc
Upthegrove Family Enrichment Center
Urban Appalachian Council
Vinton county Board of commissioners
Volunteers of America Northwest Ohio, Inc
Warren County Community Services Inc.
Young Adult Community Development, Inc
Young Women's Christian Association, Mahoning County
comicEvan and Wyatt and the Magical, Dessert-Enlarging Pennywhistle
a comic strip by Charles Stough

Have you ever wished you could magically double the size of a great dessert? In Charley Stough's comic strip, a couple of kids use magical pennywhistles to do just that. Stough was a VISTA with OASHF in 2007-08 and now serves as an OBB Counselor for City Heart in Dayton.

Evan & Wyatt
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