First Contact for assistance- Nondenominational ministry serves as ‘first responder’ for needy of Porter County

Written by Contributor. Posted in Community News & People in the News, Featured

Published on July 19, 2017 with No Comments

by Steve Euvino

Dan Grass serves as director of First Contact, a not-for-profit, nondenominational resource and referral ministry serving the needy of Porter County.

What started when two women holding the same book attended a meeting for the homeless has grown into a ministry serving area needy.

Now located in three offices, First Contact is a not-for-profit, nondenominational referral and resource ministry assisting Porter County residents in need.

Supported by more than half the churches in Porter County, First Contact follows the biblical message of Isaiah 58:10 – “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like morning.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.6 percent of Porter County’s residents – or around 20,000 persons – are living below the poverty level.

Needs could include assistance with rental or utility bills. First Contact volunteer counselors meet with clients to determine needs. Clients may receive some initial funds, as First Contact may then refer or recommend other social service agencies.

First Contact sees about 1,400 clients annually, or about 100 persons each month.

“Our goal is to keep people from becoming homeless,” said Dan Grass, current director of First Contact.

Grass succeeded the now-retired Barbara Kemler, who explained that First Contact is able to “give to the poor the help that Jesus commissioned us to give as his disciples.”

In some cases, Green said, First Contact may help people waiting for their Social Security disability benefits. That wait may take a couple years, and in the meantime, other bills come due.

“During that time, we may see those people quite often,” Grass said. “Then, after a couple times, we may not see them again. They’ve gotten out of their crisis or we’ve helped them out of the crisis.”

The name First Contact comes from the idea that this ministry can be the first stopping point for someone in need. Local pastors can be inundated with calls for help, Grass said, and if their church supports First Contact, they can refer those people to this ministry.

“We keep good records on each client,” Grass said. “We really try to turn their situation around.”

The ministry does not judge clients, Grass added. “We can help, if you’re willing to help,” the director said. “If they choose not to, they’ve made the decision for us not to help.”

The ministry started after Joanne Maynard, the first director, and the late Kathy Evans were at a meeting for the homeless when Maynard noticed both she and Evans had copies of “Help Is Just Around the Corner: How Love Inc. Mobilizes Care for the Needy” by Dr. Virgil Gulker. Love Inc. networks churches, volunteers, and community groups to help people, using local resources.

Maynard felt someone needed to be done locally, and that led to First Contact Inc.

In a promotional video, a First Contact counselor called the ministry “a wonderful experience for me.” She noted, “I do it because I see the need.”

Adding that people, many who are working, may just need some help paying bills, the counselor said First Contact “offers a little amount to get over the rough spots.”

Supporting First Contact’s efforts are more than 50 Porter County churches, not only financially but also with manpower as receptionists and counselors. Aside from Grass’ position, all First Contact staffers are volunteers.

Although the ministry does not promote any religion, staff will ask clients for permission to pray for them, Grass said, and provide lists of church they may wish to visit.

“This is another service we offer,” Grass said. “We try to give counseling in the way of prayer. People get a better feeling, that there is a God looking out for me.”

According to one testimonial, the name First Contact says it all.

“First Contact is a needy person’s first responder in a time of deep need, and our community’s first opportunity to wisely, humanely, and fairly allocate its charitable and social safety net resources,” the person stated. “I have seen that both recipient and giver are far better off when the act of kindness is not random, but rather planned, purposeful, and strong.”

For more information, visit www.firstcontactinc.org or email forstcontactministry@comcast.net

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