CLEVELAND — At Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, Vice President Ian Marks says hundreds of people are on the road to redemption.
“We serve a plenty of folks who are certainly at risk,” he said. “We serve mostly folks who are currently on SNAP benefits or on TANF cash benefits. So, these are folks are really trying to figure out how they're getting to there.”
Many of his students and clients are creating their own path through several programs, specifically ones centered around culinary work. However, Marks says the barriers they face at home because of the pandemic aren’t helping keep them on track.
“We're looking to place those students as quickly as possible. Some are getting placed into jobs prior to graduation, which is great. They can learn and earn simultaneously, but a number of them need that extra help just because, you know, if they get a landlord who's really a stickler on them and they miss by a couple of days and that's going to delay them from graduating the program is delay them from reaching that final goal.”
But that’s changing.
A new donation program, called NeighborRelief, is helping Marks’ students bounce back. He says at least 50 of them have already received help.
“We don't want to leave anyone behind,” said T-CETRA VP of Strategic Partnerships Kristine Gross.
NeighborRelief was created by T-CETRA, a financial technology solutions enabler headquartered in Dublin, Ohio and the GroundWork Group. It's a crowd fundraising platform aimed at helping the underserved in the Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo, and Chillicothe, Ohio communities. The idea is to connect donors to anonymous families based on their story of survival, need or even zip code.
Whether it's groceries or utilities, a donor can fund all or some of those bills while also sharing words of encouragement. Once they do, an email is sent confirming their donation was used for its intended purpose.
“What happens is if someone donates money to groundwork group to neighbor relief, we're able to take that money in immediately, pay off that back end essential service. So we're working with wireless providers, utility providers, grocery providers, etc.” Gross explained.
According to Gross, the platform also aims to alleviate the burden nonprofits are now facing by allowing them to solely focus on their constituents.
“We're still out there trying to get donations and to raise our own funds, but to have that direct line, it's something where it's pretty turnkey for us,” said Marks. “It's really a win-win for everyone involved in it.”