by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Sarah Masek, Housing Director for Beatitude House, stayed in Ashtabula County after finishing college. She loves her work, assisting disadvantaged women and children, many caught in the seemingly impossible confluence of generational poverty and an economy which has been in a persistent downward spiral since 2008.
One job benefit, which lights up her eyes, are the hugs she receives from children who live at Beatitude House, located on Lake Avenue. With their mothers, children find stability in the apartments provided. Local organizations sponsor some of these, for instance, St. Peter's Church.
Sometimes these challenges lead to insights and sharing. Many not-for-profits are reaching now out to work together. Beatitude House ensures their clients know about programs available elsewhere, for instance at the YMCA, just down the street.
With others in the not-for-profit sector, finding the means to continue helping clients change the future, for themselves and their children, created more cooperation within the community and thinking smarter.
Sarah's first job, after finishing her Master's Degree, was at United Way. There, Sarah first used a tool she had originated which allows an organization to improve services provided to clients. Called a Logic Model, actions taken are tracked. This reveals how successfully programs are working to deliver the desired impact. Tracking includes resources, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts for each program.
One of the lessons those in social work have found is understanding how poverty changes thinking. Those struggling with poverty, domestic violence, and other problems, shorten their horizon for planning. When bare survival is in question long term planning is abandoned. For many clients coming through Beatitude House, planning incremental actions for re-establishing credit, having a driver's license, and keeping a job, were missing steps to success.
Over the last decades many, now locked in poverty, lost this ability to plan for the future. In part, the need was negated by programs which made it unnecessary. Today, these skills are being relearned.
The question of how the Logic Model could be applied to County government came up, raised by discussion of unsuccessful County programs. Sarah's method, applied to smaller programs, provides insights needed to reallocate resources, increasing success for larger programs. This way, helping more people, with less money, can be accomplished, keeping expenditures within the budget.
Thinking smarter and using the right tools make success possible.
Wouldn't it be nice if Sarah was a County Commissioner?