By Tracie Issac
During this era of COVID, food insecurities and blankets topped the list of calls for help from shelters and organizations requesting assistance to service a continually mounting increase of local residents. Many locals who find themselves with reduced income or employment seek resources to supplement their food supplies.
Additionally, social service agencies and outreach organizations find their financial and food donations diminishing while shelter intake and food pantry requests are overwhelmingly increasing. Even law enforcement and first responders find that supplies like blankets have decreased in their inventories.
In response to these issues, local clergy, concerned citizens, non-profit organization members, City Council representatives, several law enforcement agencies including the sheriff’s office and RPD and community leaders volunteered to answer the calls for help and organized a new entity with a title that also states its’ purpose, “Uniting and Healing Through Hope of Monroe County.”
Unity and community service was the motivation that inspired Clay Harris, Founder of Uniting and Healing Through Hope of Monroe County to respond to top line issues in the city of Rochester and Monroe County.
“God gave me the vision for this organization and He wanted his light to be seen by his people… The organization is church centered with over 50 churches throughout the city and county. I believe that to have the churches at the center of our mission helps to reach people in various communities in and outside of the church,” stated Clay Harris.
Sheriff Todd Baxter of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office shared a recent experience that underlines the need for blankets in patrol cars. Recently Sheriff Baxter responded to a location on route 390 where a motor vehicle accident occurred during a snow storm and a pregnant woman went into labor. At the time traffic was backed up and at a stand-still with no way to get an emergency vehicle or ambulance through to the site. Baxter stated, “In an emergency situation where a patrol car is the first on the scene, I find this woman in labor and all I wanted was a blanket to cover and warm her. This was surely a time when I wish I had a blanket. Our goal is to help provide blankets for patrol cars which would go a long way in showing our concern and that we care.”
Steve Brew, Majority Leader for Monroe County Legislature and a member shared, “Uniting and Healing Through Hope of Monroe County sprang into action with our first initiative which took place during Thanksgiving with a very successful community food drive to feed over 800 families.”
On the heels of the food drive, the organization was able to respond to an additional need for blankets for first responders based on the Daniel Prude incident, where a simple blanket could have gone a long way to assist in the situation to cover Prude.
During the Christmas and New Year period PSA’s and news releases were dispatched to announce the “Holiday Blanket Drive” where monetary and new blanket donations would support the next initiative to respond to the immediate need of blankets to a growing list of churches, shelters, first responder agencies and homeless outreach organizations throughout the city and Monroe County.
Healing Through Hope of Monroe County set up a central fulfillment site at RIT’s Conference Center in Henrietta on January 15 and 16, to coordinate and distribute a quantity of 1,500 blankets donated at collection sites. An additional collection and distribution took place January 28th and 29 at the Montgomery Center in partnership with Montgomery’s new resident organization S.W.A.N.
The blanket collection was aided by Rochester’s suburban police agencies, RPD and the sheriff’s department who set up collection points at their offices and in downtown areas. Law enforcement functioned as the delivery mechanism to the organizations and individuals who signed up in advance for blankets.
Harris was overjoyed while assessing the culmination of 1,500 blanket arrivals at the RIT Conference Center and over 1,700 blankets received at Montgomery Center. Volunteers at each fulfillment location worked swiftly in unity to fulfill the delivery requests.
“Most of the blanket inventory was distributed to churches within the city who signed up to receive blankets for use in their outreach and emergency inventories. To reach the homeless, Uniting and Healing Through Hope partnered with other organizations who identify locations where the homeless convene and will hand deliver an initial 400 blankets to that population,” said Harris.
To address the senior population, a specific focus by Uniting and Healing Through Hope connected organizations like LifeSpan and Ibero American Action League’s Elder Services to distribute blankets directly to their senior clients. These sources are able to promptly connect and deliver the blankets to ensure that our senior community is covered during the cold season.
A vision turned into a united reality for the agencies and partnerships of Uniting and Healing Through Hope of Monroe County. Requests for assistance of food or blankets can still be submitted. For more information call (585)789-1495 or visit the website at www.unitedthroughhope.com.