Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
PARKERSBURG - The United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley has helped Essentially Yours grow and evolve over the past four years, allowing the nonprofit organization to help hundreds of area residents receive basic necessities to begin new lives.
Chris Penn, executive director of Essentially Yours, said the group was formed in 2010 to help homeless people as they transition into traditional housing.
Photo by Michael Erb
The volunteers of Essentially Yours help residents receive basic living necessities. The all-volunteer staff includes, from left are Alma Henry, Hertha Dexter, Chris Penn, Bessie Yaters, and Joyce Cabbil, not pictured.
Penn said those moving from a halfway house or shelter to an apartment or other housing could get vouchers for furniture, but lacked other basic necessities, such as plates and cups, pillows and sheets, cooking utensils and personal hygiene items.
"These are essential items that are needed in a home," Penn said, "and these weren't provided by anyone else."
Several nonprofit organizations - including the Voices of Triumph Gospel Choir which originated Essentially Yours, the Salvation Army, Community Resources, the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley and Westbrook Services - formed the collaborative specifically to address this need.
The United Way provided the organization with a $2,500 grant to buy computers and other office supplies during that first year, and has provided a similar grant for Essentially Yours each year since. This year the United Way presented the group with a $1,000 gift for technology training, and announced Essentially Yours would receive another $2,500 grant in February.
In addition, Penn said the United Way, through the direct efforts of Executive Director Joyce Mather, has helped the organization grow and evolve over the years, both through advice and guidance and by securing resources and contacts for the nonprofit.
In the first two years, Essentially Yours helped about 162 households. This year the group has served more than 300 and has expanded the groups served, including disaster relief efforts through the American Red Cross, Penn said.
"We help people who have experienced a disaster," such as the water crisis in Kanawha County, Penn said. Essentially Yours also works with the Children's Home Society of West Virginia to provide supplies for children who are relocating and with area women's shelters for victims of domestic violence.
"We have at least 22 agencies that are referring people to us," Penn said.
Essentially Yours is the only such service in the region. It accepts new and gently used home goods that, in turn, will be given free of charge to people in the community who are transitioning from homelessness into tenancy through a referral program. Proof of residency will be required to receive the service.
Essentially Yours is open two days a week, from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the rear of the Boys and Girls Club building at 1200 Mary St. in Parkersburg. The group also has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/essentiallyyoursvoicesofthestreets.
The service is an arm of the Voices of Triumph ministry, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. All donations are tax-deductible. Clients are referred to Essentially Yours from service organizations like the Salvation Army and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.