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What's happening in the counties?

Spring flowers  Sign of HOPE

Patience. New challenges. Understanding. “Hanging in there.” Creativity. Connection. These were some of the words offered by St. Benedict Education Center Case Managers in the counties to describe their work experiences during these days of COVID-19. These words speak of what they hear happening around them and what is needed as they deal with today’s reality in the lives of their clients and families. Some participants are described as being “anxious, frustrated, lonely, short of patience…”, while others “have been holding up quite well.” 

What are SBEC clients in Crawford, Venango, Warren, Clarion, and Forest counties experiencing? Some who were working have lost their jobs due to school and daycare closures. At least one person is receiving unemployment compensation benefits. Another got a call to report to work but they had no childcare. 

In the midst of this crisis, however, is the happy story of a client in Crawford County who is the new Housing Department Assistant at the Center for Family Services, Inc. Susan had volunteered at this agency in the past so she was quite qualified to be hired when the position opened. Fortunately, family support helps address her own need for childcare. Susan is hoping to someday become a HUD Certified Housing Counselor. 

Opportunities for further education have been cancelled or postponed. One participant wanted to attend a CNA class which was cancelled. She’s hoping it will be re-scheduled. She plans to attend. 

Staying at home with the children and assuming many unfamiliar roles has offered challenges and opportunities for creativity. How does one help her children pursue on-line studies with personal educational limitations, with no computer, and with poor cell phone reception and service? These internet issues are prevalent in rural areas. How does one create and maintain a schedule with a good balance and some discipline? How and when does one go outside with her young daughter who has medical issues without exposing her to the dangers of the COVID-19 virus from the neighboring children who come running? 
These and other challenging situations are providing SBEC participants with the opportunity to push through their frustration to become more creative problem solvers. This seems to be happening with help from the case managers, family, and services offered in the county areas. This time of waiting at home for circumstances to change also seems, in some cases, to be sharpening participants’ desire to work. 

In some instances these are some of the same challenges and opportunities presented to the staff of SBEC. Working at home rather than in the office has demanded creativity as well as understanding and patience with oneself and others during these unfamiliar days. The staff seems to be doing very well. 

Additional efforts being made by businesses, agencies, and individuals to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic is notable. To identify only two: One business announced the expansion of their Kidz Meal Bagz program which provides free food to help children and families; and a “P4C HOPE LINE” is being offered by “Peace 4 Crawford” to connect a person with a wide variety of emotional, informational, and material support, at no cost, during the pandemic. These are the types of supports case managers use as referrals for their clients. Each county has resources unique to their area from which to draw. 

Reflecting on her work and interactions with her clients, one case manager comments, “…my clients are just the regular Americans trying to obey the law, keep themselves and their families safe and healthy, trying to help others, and being patient while this passes.” Another adds, “Although many things have been canceled Spring and Hope have not.” 

Both of these thoughts seem to represent well what is happening at SBEC these days.