The past two fiscal years have been the busiest we have ever experienced in We Care’s history. The greatest need we have seen through the pandemic has been financial, and it’s no wonder. Did you know that the average rent in Grundy County for a two-bedroom apartment is nearly $1,200 per month? According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition “a full-time worker must earn at least $20.40 per hour to rent a modest one-bedroom home, or $24.90 per hour to rent a modest two-bedroom home. These amounts are far higher than many Americans—including seniors, people with disabilities, and working families—can spend on housing. Even before the pandemic, our nation had a shortage of 7 million affordable and available homes for renters with the lowest incomes. As a result, 70% of these households routinely spent more than half of their incomes on rent.”

We Care gives financial assistance when there is a tangible crisis beyond a person’s control. We work very diligently to ensure not only a fair and impartial process for those seeking help, but that we are using our funds in the wisest way possible and helping those who are truly in need. We have a dedicated committee of nine people from diverse backgrounds that look at each case on an individual basis, ensuring that we give fair, impartial and thoughtful decisions when it comes to providing financial assistance.  

Eligibility is based on county residency, income (under 200% of the Federal Poverty Level), proof of a crisis beyond the person’s control and (for rent, mortgage or utility) proof that once assistance is given, the client will be able to maintain their own bills going forward.

We ask for proof of residency, proof of income or unemployment, proof of crisis (example: termination letter, doctor note, etc.) and copies of bank statements. Each application is reviewed in detail by the committee, and additional information may be requested. The committee then votes to accept or deny the application.  The process generally takes 24-48 hours. Once the application has been accepted, a check is cut directly to the appropriate vendor, landlord, etc.

We have found that there are many things beyond food, rent and utilities that low income folks struggle to afford, especially when things fall apart in times of crisis. Since we formed our Relief Committee in 2019 we have been able to help with things like car repairs, new water heaters and furnaces, chair lifts and ramps, and even education for job advancement. The Relief Fund is completely community supported and is overseen by our nine-member relief committee.

As we move forward, we hope to be able to provide not only food or financial assistance when someone is in need, but even more guidance and education so that we can help them get OVER the hurdle of their struggles and beyond. To that end we will be completing a build out of new offices spaces that will allow us to move all of our current office to the rear of the building where our main parking lot is. The strategy behind this is twofold.

The new office space is going to make our daily operations easier and friendlier for everyone. Currently, people must enter and go down a very long hallway and through the pantry before finding our reception area. For folks coming to us for the first time, this is a bit confusing and even a little daunting.  The new space will have our clients entering from the rear parking lot directly into our reception area, which will be more welcoming and make us easier to find!

It also means that the spaces that we are currently using as our offices will be opened up for new use. We are very excited about this because it means that we will be able to have multiple classes and programs happening at once. Everything ranging from our NAMI Family-to-Family class, ACE’s Parenting Program, and life skills classes to programs by Easterseals and other agencies. We will also have a space that can be used as a one-on-one meeting room for counseling or case management. 

We are doing food distribution Monday-Friday from 1:00pm-3:15pm by appointment. We are following the CDC guidelines and are requiring masks in the building. We are also doing monthly mobile food pantries at Goodwill in Morris the third Saturday of each month through December.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been working with Goodwill for clothing assistance. When clothing items are donated to We Care, we bundle them up and deliver to Goodwill. Goodwill in turn supplies us with vouchers so that our clients in need can go shopping for clothes, free of charge. It has been a great partnership and we are looking forward to working with Goodwill on additional collaborative services in the futures.