KISRA offers variety of programs

PARKERSBURG – Representatives with the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action Inc. provided information on services the program offers for income-eligible residents during a meeting this week with the Wood County Commission.

Rosalie Parsons, program specialist, and Barbara Briggs, a case manager with the institute, told county officials the agency offers a variety of programs including small business assistance, help with financial, budgeting skills, interview and resume writing, social service programs like domestic violence prevention programs and parenting skills, and other services for income-eligible residents and their families.

“The program, which seeks to make positive community changes, has grown to 13 programs in West Virginia. We strive to empower people,” Parsons said.

Established in 1993 by members of the Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church, the institute provides 13 separate educational, employment and economic programs serving thousands of individuals and families in West Virginia.

Parsons told commissioners the nonprofit entity, funded through federal dollars, provides programs and services aimed at helping people become more financially fit, buy homes, establish a pattern of saving, open or expand small businesses, find jobs, achieve economic self-sufficiency, encourage men to become better fathers and providers, and pave the way for ex-offenders to re-enter the community and be successful and productive.

“We have offered financial wellness classes, work with the Courage to Change program, encourage responsible thinking. We assist with resume writing, how to dress for an interview and provide mentoring programs for people coming out of the corrections system,” Parsons said.

The program also offers small business loans at lower interest rates to qualifying individuals, Briggs said.

“We work with people who need second and third chances in life,” Parsons said.

“This is not a cookie-cutter program, we assess people as they come in to us and offer services they need as well as case management,” Briggs said.

The local program has offices at 410 Market St., Parkersburg.

“We also go into the jails and prisons and work with individuals who are going to be paroled,” Briggs said.

Parsons said services are provided at no charge to those with qualifying income levels.

The organization works with banks to provide a savings program, providing financial information and education to help individuals and families learn how to successfully manage their budgets and save money for the future. Programs are available to help families, individuals save and plan for education, home purchases, starting a business.

“This sounds almost too good to be true, you provide a lot of services and programs. I hadn’t heard of the program before, I hope you are effective and continue to grow and expand,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.