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Success Stories

Meet Our Self-Sufficiency Award Winner 2017
Rhonda Wilkins, Head Start Teacher

Rhonda Wilkins, fourth from the right, and her family.

The first time I heard about Head Start was from my sister-in-law in 1998. She had her daughter in the program and asked if I wanted to put my son in also. Both she and her husband were very involved with the program. My son was four when he started and at the time I was expecting another child in November. I thought it was a great opportunity for him to experience before kindergarten.

In 1992 I decided to enroll my third child into Head Start. She was very shy and I thought it would be good for her to have that social interaction with children her age before she started school. I also grew during this time because I was not confident about myself and was uncomfortable about being around people. My home visitor at the time helped a lot with getting me involved in things. The following year I then decided to start college.

In November of 1994 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to quit school to go through all my treatments. At the time my husband was self-employed and had no health insurance for either of us. After starting the procedure, the hospital helped my to apply for medical assistance to cover all the expenses that would accumulate over the period of time that I needed it. After going through my treatments and being diagnosed cancer free in 1999 I was taken off medical assistance. I was concerned about not having health insurance because I still had to have check ups but not sure how I was going to pay for them.

Rhonda (left) was nominated by Cheryl Werner (right).

After talking with my husband we decided that I would go to work and find something that would have health insurance and also be beneficial raising a family. That’s when I decided to apply for a position with Head Start. In December of 1999 I applied for the position of cook. After the interview and being very persistent, making many phone calls to HR, I got the job.

I worked as the cook for a while and then an opening for a home visitor was posted. With encouragement from my coworkers I applied for the job and was hired for the position. I enjoyed working with the families and helping them with things they needed just as I was helped when I was in the program. A few years later I was approached by my supervisor about becoming a teacher. I wasn’t sure about the position because I didn’t feel qualified enough. But with the support of my supervisor and some coworkers I accepted the position.

I have been a teacher now for about five or so years and I really enjoy my job. I have also during this time gone back to school, attained two associate degrees and then went on to get my bachelors degree. It is such a blessing to be able to work with children at this age, helping them feel confident about themselves. I also enjoy working with the families, building relationships with them and helping in areas that they may be struggling with. I can say over the years that Head Start has been a huge blessing to me in that it has helped me build my own self-confidence and shown me how much I love helping people.

Watch an interview with Rhonda, Journey to Self-Sufficiency — Part 2, created by Community Action Association of Pennsylvania.


Home Sweet Home

Steven Linden began his house search in early fall 2016 and ended up at the doorstep of Westmoreland Community Action’s Housing Counseling and Money Management Center. He had his eye on one of the newly constructed houses on South Sixth Street, part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Project in Jeannette.

After looking at the home with his realtor, Steven decided to enroll in the housing program and submit his application for processing and program approval. Steven was quickly pre-approved to purchase a WCA home that featured newly purchased appliances such as a washer, dryer, refrigerator and stove at no cost and $7,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance.

Following loan pre-approval, Steven displayed a lot of patience and a strong desire to purchase the home. Anxious to submit a mortgage loan application, Steven was faced with the necessity of waiting to apply for a loan. As a prerequisite for loan application, WCA’s second and third mortgage documents had to be revised by WCA’s solicitor and approved by the Department of Planning and Development of Westmoreland County.

During the wait, Steven continued to express his interest in the home, worked diligently with WCA’s housing counselors, and attended a Pre-Closing Educational Seminar. After having numerous hurdles to overcome, Steven closed on his new home on January 27, 2017!


The sweet sound of success thanks to medical assistance
Meet the Denner Family
Bradenville, PA

Charlene Denner takes the sparkly pink and purple hearing aids out of her ears and shows off the batteries to demonstrate that she can take care of them all by herself. In addition to understanding routine maintenance and recognizing that the battery needs to be replaced every 10 days, the precocious 6-year old has “adjusted to wearing them really, really well,” says her mom, Bethany.

Bethany and husband, Adam, didn’t realize at first that Charlene had hearing issues. “We just thought she wasn’t listening, not paying attention, like any other 3-year-old,” she explains. Charlene was in a Head Start program at the time and, when she failed two routine hearing tests, the family took her to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC to see a specialist.

“Charlene now has hearing therapy five times a week and speech therapy once a week,” says Bethany. “Because of all the services and help she’s received, Charlene is right on track to be ready for first grade in the fall. We were worried she wouldn’t succeed.” Those services are provided through Pennsylvania state medical assistance program.

Money is tight for the Denner family. Bethany works full-time at Wal-Mart and Adam is unemployed. The medical assistance Charlene receives makes it possible for the family to afford care despite their financial challenges. “Charlene wouldn’t be where she is now without the therapy, hearing aids and services,” Bethany adds. “She is coming home with good grades in kindergarten and is even writing small sentences. She’s succeeding.”

Charlene’s younger brother, Adam Jr., turns three in July and is excited to begin the Head Start program. Bethany says his hearing is routinely evaluated, as well, to see if he also has hearing disorders. “So far, so good,” Bethany adds. “But now we know what to look for. And, more importantly, with medical assistance, we know who to contact for help.”

Story taken from http://familyfirstpa.org/families/denner/


Working together with local law enforcement

It has always been the goal of our Crisis Mobile program to help people through a crisis on a more intimate, face-to-face level. The community and individuals in crisis benefit greatly from the success of this unique program in Westmoreland County.

We have encountered great success and growth over the years by networking with community leaders and law enforcement. Crisis Mobile has experienced a more consistent stream of calls by our law enforcement due in part to the ongoing education and understanding of behavioral health and its growing presence in our county.

The Crisis Mobile teams who interact on a daily basis with police officers have formed a strong relationship and hope to continue to strengthen this relationship as it benefits everyone in our county. Through continued marketing and education for law enforcement we should continue to grow and see continued success!

Pictured from left to right, Ligonier Township Police Officer and Chief, who recently assisted our Crisis Mobile team.

 

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