GRIFFITH — As Griffith seeks to form its own township — or join a new one — the Town Council has partnered with the Lake Area United Way to help needy residents get help that was missing with Calumet Township.
"This is essentially the first wave of contact someone should have when going into a township for assistance," Council President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, said Tuesday. "We will manage the program at zero additional cost to our taxpayers."
The council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to create the partnership.
Ryfa said Calumet Township has failed Griffith residents for the past 20 to 30 years and that the LAUW partnership will connect residents to services that can help them.
“With our township status in question, we absolutely owe it to our citizens who may be in need of help to find assistance," Ryfa said.
He added that this will not take the form of monetary handouts, but will be provided by "a network of over 100 organizations that United Way will refer (them) to."
Lisa Daugherty, LAUW president and CEO, was on hand to introduce three main programs that can help needy residents and others who do not require assistance.
The first program puts needy citizens a phone call away from getting help.
"As an example, residents will be able to dial 2-1-1 for free, confidential telephone assistance" from a special call center, said Erin Meisner, LAUW community impact manager.
She added that the call center, partly funded by LAUW, is provided by the Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation.
The United for Families Network Partners, which is part of LAUW, can rapidly refer residents to entities such as Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army through its internet-based Charity Tracker system.
Trained call specialists will be available to assess residential needs, such as groceries, utility bills, shelter and housing assistance and many other things.
"For families, the system saves a significant amount of time on the referral and intake process," Meisner said.
The programs can also save residents a lot of money when it comes to prescription drugs.
A free program, called FamilyWiz, provides a prescription discount card that has given a savings average of 45 percent.
Meisner said this program, which has saved over $6 million for area families, does not require any registration or special financial eligibility.
This nationwide program cannot be used in conjunction with existing drug insurance.
"We're happy to supply additional (prescription) cards" at our office, Daugherty said. The office is at 221 W. Ridge Road in Griffith.
Ryfa added that the free cards will also be available at Town Hall.
The third program is a free tax preparation service for any resident whose household income is under $54,000.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program will be available at about a dozen locations around the area.
For more information, residents can call the LAUW at 219-923-2302 or Town Hall at 219-924-7500.
Meisner also noted that the United for Families Network is a coalition of various governmental agencies, nonprofit groups and faith-based organizations.
“Charity Tracker is user-friendly, customizable and allows service providers to track assistance provided across (a) shared client network and make direct electronic referrals to other network providers for other assistance,” Daugherty said.
Meisner said anyone seeking assistance can call 211, email her at email@example.com or call 219-999-2545.