Many individuals and families have, at one time or another, been in a situation where they needed extra support or services. Fortunately, we have some wonderful organizations in our community that can help people in times of need. The Crisis Center of Johnson County is one of these organizations.
Since their founding in 1970, the Crisis Center has served as a resource for individuals and families in crisis and offers assistance with community-wide problems, as well. Recently I sat down with Communications and Development Director, Sara Sedlacek, to discuss the array of services offered by the Center.
Tell us about the Crisis Center of Johnson County. What types of services do you offer? How many families/individuals do you serve in an average year?
The Crisis Center of Johnson County operates a 24-hour crisis line, as well as crisis chat and text services. We also operate a Mobile Crisis Intervention Program, which sends trained mental health counselors to the site of a mental health crisis. Through our Crisis Intervention Programs, we respond to more than 30,000 crisis calls each year. Our Food Bank serves more than 1,000 families each week. Every year, more than 13,000 unique individuals visit The Crisis Center Food Bank for a total of nearly 53,000 food assists annually. We also provide emergency housing and utility assistance to more than 900 households each year, which helps people stay in their homes and keep their utilities turned on.
Recently the Crisis Center hosted a forum on food security issues in Johnson County. At the forum, the panelists talked about how stigma sometimes prevents people from accessing services they need. What would you say to someone in this position? Is there anything you think we as a community can do to help end these stigmas?
The most important thing we can do to reduce the stigmas related to food insecurity and poverty is to continue to talk about these issues and ensure that the correct information is being circulated. The stigmas associated with poverty stem from stereotypes and a general misunderstanding about people experiencing food insecurity or living in poverty. In fact, not everyone who identifies as food insecure lives in poverty. In Johnson County, 81% of those who experience food insecurity spend more than half their income on housing. That can stretch a family’s budget very thin. Helping our friends, family, and neighbors understand what causes someone to be food insecure is a really great way to begin reducing the stigma associated with it.
With regard to the need for crisis services in Johnson County, is there anything you think our readers would be surprised to know? (For example, the types of services most needed, the average age of people accessing services, etc.)
On average, the families who visit the food bank have at least one working adult in the home. This often surprises people. Additionally, the number of people we serve is usually pretty surprising. In FY15, we did 52,311 food assists for the year, distributing 1.27 million pounds of food. Of that food, roughly 70% is donated by Table to Table, a local food rescue organization.
You have two big events happening now: The Fan Drive and Thanksgiving in July. Tell us about those events, and any other ways people can help.
The Fan Club is our annual fundraising effort that brings in money to purchase box fans for our clients. We give a fan every other year to anyone who requests one. Having a fan in the home can help reduce air conditioning costs, but some people don’t even have air conditioning, so they are critical for keeping cool in the summer. Lack of air circulation during extreme heat can increase health issues, especially those related to asthma or other respiratory diseases.
Thanksgiving in July is a community-wide food drive that was started to fight summer hunger. Not only are there more mouths to feed at home when school is out, but summer is also when donations decline. This year, Hills Bank & Trust Co. has generously sponsored Thanksgiving in July at The Crisis Center and has gotten us off to an incredible start to raising the 80,000 pounds of food we need to keep our food bank shelves stocked. Each $1 raised will allow us to purchase 4 pounds of food. Whether it’s through financial donations or food donations, we are working very hard to ensure we hit our 80,000-pound goal this summer!
Want to learn more about the services offered by the Crisis Center? You can visit their website for information about resources, donations, and volunteer opportunities.