For many who come to GRACE for help, it all begins with Client Services, and a talk with Client Services manager Marcy Melendez, or one of the case managers in her office.
The outcome of this talk is a thorough needs assessment and a customized assistance plan for every client and client family.
The assistance plan is designed to lead clients back to self-sufficiency—solving the current crisis, and devising ways to avert future crises. The client and case manager revisit the plan each time a client returns to GRACE, and adjustments are made throughout the year as progress is made.
The first of the year is a perfect time to “take stock” said Marcy. For the next few weeks she and her staff will visit with clients on their caseloads, reassess their needs, and revise assistance plans for the coming year. For many clients, it is a time for celebration.
“Clients see how far they’ve come in a very short time,” said Marcy. “Paying their rent and utilities on time, having reliable transportation, keeping their children well-fed, are all reasons to celebrate.”
For some clients who have yet to recover, or who have experienced additional crises, this is a time for renewed counseling and encouragement.
“Bad times happen,” said Marcy. “What we try to teach our clients is that bad times are not permanent.” Part of the counseling for these clients focuses on overcoming setbacks, and planning ways to anticipate and prevent future crises.
Even clients on fixed incomes, like seniors in the GRACE Friends & Family program, are visited and reassessed. “Their [financial] situation may not change,” said Marcy, “but their needs do change.”
Friends & Family coordinator Maryann Waddell will meet with seniors and disabled clients to find ways they can continue to live comfortably and independently.
Working with clients to reassess their needs also gives Marcy a chance to revise her budget and reallocate resources to new clients and additional services.
“We’ll find families who can budget more of their own grocery costs, utilities, and rent,” said Marcy. “That will free up funding for other families who are coming to us with greater needs.”
More than 47% of GRACE clients are the working poor—those with jobs, but struggling to make ends meet. For some of these clients, a crisis—any crisis—can send the family budget spiraling out of control.
“A couple of sick days, a car repair bill—any unexpected costs—are concerns to families on very tight or fixed budgets,” said Marcy. For these clients, “just knowing GRACE is there to help them eases their worries,” she said.
Prayers are needed for Marcy and her case workers over the next few weeks as they meet one-by-one with their GRACE clients, celebrating with some, counseling others, to make 2017 a better year for all.
For more information about GRACE Client Services, email Marcela Melendez or call 817-488-7009.