CCS Continues To Help People In Need Even With 'Tight' Finances

February 22, 2024 at 6:22 p.m.
Speaking (L to R) at Combined Community Services’ Love Thy Neighbor luncheon Thursday at Warsaw Community Church were Executive Director Randy Polston, Director of Emergency Services Tim Frame and Director of Self-Sufficiency Sabrina Phillips. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Speaking (L to R) at Combined Community Services’ Love Thy Neighbor luncheon Thursday at Warsaw Community Church were Executive Director Randy Polston, Director of Emergency Services Tim Frame and Director of Self-Sufficiency Sabrina Phillips. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union

By DAVID L. SLONE Managing Editor

Finances are tight at Combined Community Services, but the number of people seeking assistance is greater now than during the pandemic just a few years ago.
At CCS’ annual Love Thy Neighbor luncheon Thursday at Warsaw Community Church, CCS Executive Director Randy Polston said they continue to try to get the word out about CCS, and the luncheon is one way they do that.
“As we look back in 2023 - we just finished up that year - very, very blessed to see everything that we’ve been able to accomplish ... there is such a need in our community and it continues to grow. What has happened over the last four years with the pandemic, inflation, we are just seeing more and more and more need in our community. So we worked very hard in 2023 to address that need,” Polston said.
With the help of the K21 Health Foundation, he said CCS was able to do its strategic planning, wrapping that up in February 2023. The nonprofit agency now has a five-year roadmap to take it where it needs to go “to continue to impact lives in this community,” he said.
Now, as CCS is in 2024, “financially, it’s a challenge. It’s a huge challenge. As a nonprofit, as a faith-based nonprofit, we are getting some roadblocks financially ... but we know that He’s got a plan. We know He’s already gone before us. We’re going to make it, but things are tight. Things are very tight,” Polston said.
As CCS moves into 2024, he said they continue to look at their financial challenges. “But the thing of it is, it does take a village and you are all part of that village. We can’t do this by ourselves. We are His hands and feet, but so are you. You are His hands and feet to make a difference in this community,” Polston said.
Tim Frame, CCS director of emergency services, said CCS has a utility assistance program. Last year through the program they were able to help over 300 families keep warm in the winter.
“That program continues to break record numbers. We’re working closely with state programs, energy assistance programs, things like that to make sure that we have the resources to help those families,” he said.
Probably the largest impact CCS makes with its emergency services program is the food pantry.
“Just recently, we were notified that the southern part of Kosciusko County is considered a food desert, which means that folks in that part of the county don’t have the means to get to a fully functional grocery store within 10 miles of their residence,” Frame said. “So, just through some efforts and some partners down in that area, we were able to partner with some folks down there to help” establish a food pantry down there.
Thankfully now, he said, there’s a smaller grocery store with a new Dollar General store that’s able to help with the need down there.
CCS’ food pantry is now serving over 2,500 households in the county.
“This is over 7,000 individuals every month. We have about 700 families or more every month coming in to visit our food pantry. And these needs have been increasing since Covid. The need now is actually greater than it was during Covid,” Frame said.
In their efforts to move forward with the need, he said CCS has expanded its food pantry.
“We did have a clothing pantry, and the need was just so great with food we needed more storage, we needed to expand, we needed to make sure we were able to help these families in need with their food insecurity, so we’ve expanded the food pantry,” Frame said.
CCS also has been working with K21 to provide fresh local free produce, during the growing months, to CCS’ guests. People who visit CCS for assistance are referred to as guests.
CCS also partners with the Midwest Food Bank out of Indianapolis. “That gives us additional food that we can get from those programs. We also partner with the Food Bank of Northern Indiana out of South Bend, and we also partner with - just recently - Meijer. We are now a direct agency. We can purchase food through Meijer’s organization wholesale. I like to share that information with folks because if you give a dollar, we can really make that dollar stretch out with the resources that we have,” Frame said.
During the Covid pandemic, people were able to go to the food pantry twice a month because the need was so great, he said. Unfortunately, now that the pandemic has passed, so, too, have the resources from organizations like the USDA and FEMA.
“Those resources are gone now, but our challenges are even greater with inflation. I just learned yesterday that inflation for food is at a 30-year high, so the cost of food is at a 30-year high right now,” Frame stated.
From 2023 to now, he said there’s been a 37% increase in the number of people CCS has served through its food pantry. He said they’ve assisted over 400 new families in 2023 and that number continues to rise.
There’s also refugees coming into the community as well that CCS is trying to help as well.
Sabrina Phillips, CCS director of self-sufficiency, said CCS has two self-sufficiency programs.
The first program is the Hand Up Program that works with families in crisis. Those crises could include homelessness, job loss and/or health.
“We work with that family. We develop an individual plan and find resources within our agency, and if they’re not available there, then outside in our community. Anything that’s going to help that family succeed,” she said.
Last year, CCS had 12 families that went from homeless to stability, she said. Ten of those families have employment and their own places.
Participants usually are in that program anywhere from six months to one year.
The long-term program is Project Independence. “That program is family economic self-sufficiency,” she said.
Through the program, a plan is developed for the family to get them self-sufficient. “And we’re going and we’re going to mentor. We’re going to work on life skills. It might be vocational training. It might be college, and we might be partnering with a community partner for also mentoring. So when they come off Project Independence, they come off that program, off all government assistance. There’s no housing assistance. There’s no food stamps, no Medicaid. So they’re off that program,” Phillips said.
A video of Elizabeth France’s journey, including her time in Project Independence, was shown at the luncheon with France present.
The luncheon ended with a request for donations to CCS, 1195 Mariners Drive, Warsaw, IN 46582. Donations can be made online at www.ccsgives.com. The telephone number is 574-269-6019.

Finances are tight at Combined Community Services, but the number of people seeking assistance is greater now than during the pandemic just a few years ago.
At CCS’ annual Love Thy Neighbor luncheon Thursday at Warsaw Community Church, CCS Executive Director Randy Polston said they continue to try to get the word out about CCS, and the luncheon is one way they do that.
“As we look back in 2023 - we just finished up that year - very, very blessed to see everything that we’ve been able to accomplish ... there is such a need in our community and it continues to grow. What has happened over the last four years with the pandemic, inflation, we are just seeing more and more and more need in our community. So we worked very hard in 2023 to address that need,” Polston said.
With the help of the K21 Health Foundation, he said CCS was able to do its strategic planning, wrapping that up in February 2023. The nonprofit agency now has a five-year roadmap to take it where it needs to go “to continue to impact lives in this community,” he said.
Now, as CCS is in 2024, “financially, it’s a challenge. It’s a huge challenge. As a nonprofit, as a faith-based nonprofit, we are getting some roadblocks financially ... but we know that He’s got a plan. We know He’s already gone before us. We’re going to make it, but things are tight. Things are very tight,” Polston said.
As CCS moves into 2024, he said they continue to look at their financial challenges. “But the thing of it is, it does take a village and you are all part of that village. We can’t do this by ourselves. We are His hands and feet, but so are you. You are His hands and feet to make a difference in this community,” Polston said.
Tim Frame, CCS director of emergency services, said CCS has a utility assistance program. Last year through the program they were able to help over 300 families keep warm in the winter.
“That program continues to break record numbers. We’re working closely with state programs, energy assistance programs, things like that to make sure that we have the resources to help those families,” he said.
Probably the largest impact CCS makes with its emergency services program is the food pantry.
“Just recently, we were notified that the southern part of Kosciusko County is considered a food desert, which means that folks in that part of the county don’t have the means to get to a fully functional grocery store within 10 miles of their residence,” Frame said. “So, just through some efforts and some partners down in that area, we were able to partner with some folks down there to help” establish a food pantry down there.
Thankfully now, he said, there’s a smaller grocery store with a new Dollar General store that’s able to help with the need down there.
CCS’ food pantry is now serving over 2,500 households in the county.
“This is over 7,000 individuals every month. We have about 700 families or more every month coming in to visit our food pantry. And these needs have been increasing since Covid. The need now is actually greater than it was during Covid,” Frame said.
In their efforts to move forward with the need, he said CCS has expanded its food pantry.
“We did have a clothing pantry, and the need was just so great with food we needed more storage, we needed to expand, we needed to make sure we were able to help these families in need with their food insecurity, so we’ve expanded the food pantry,” Frame said.
CCS also has been working with K21 to provide fresh local free produce, during the growing months, to CCS’ guests. People who visit CCS for assistance are referred to as guests.
CCS also partners with the Midwest Food Bank out of Indianapolis. “That gives us additional food that we can get from those programs. We also partner with the Food Bank of Northern Indiana out of South Bend, and we also partner with - just recently - Meijer. We are now a direct agency. We can purchase food through Meijer’s organization wholesale. I like to share that information with folks because if you give a dollar, we can really make that dollar stretch out with the resources that we have,” Frame said.
During the Covid pandemic, people were able to go to the food pantry twice a month because the need was so great, he said. Unfortunately, now that the pandemic has passed, so, too, have the resources from organizations like the USDA and FEMA.
“Those resources are gone now, but our challenges are even greater with inflation. I just learned yesterday that inflation for food is at a 30-year high, so the cost of food is at a 30-year high right now,” Frame stated.
From 2023 to now, he said there’s been a 37% increase in the number of people CCS has served through its food pantry. He said they’ve assisted over 400 new families in 2023 and that number continues to rise.
There’s also refugees coming into the community as well that CCS is trying to help as well.
Sabrina Phillips, CCS director of self-sufficiency, said CCS has two self-sufficiency programs.
The first program is the Hand Up Program that works with families in crisis. Those crises could include homelessness, job loss and/or health.
“We work with that family. We develop an individual plan and find resources within our agency, and if they’re not available there, then outside in our community. Anything that’s going to help that family succeed,” she said.
Last year, CCS had 12 families that went from homeless to stability, she said. Ten of those families have employment and their own places.
Participants usually are in that program anywhere from six months to one year.
The long-term program is Project Independence. “That program is family economic self-sufficiency,” she said.
Through the program, a plan is developed for the family to get them self-sufficient. “And we’re going and we’re going to mentor. We’re going to work on life skills. It might be vocational training. It might be college, and we might be partnering with a community partner for also mentoring. So when they come off Project Independence, they come off that program, off all government assistance. There’s no housing assistance. There’s no food stamps, no Medicaid. So they’re off that program,” Phillips said.
A video of Elizabeth France’s journey, including her time in Project Independence, was shown at the luncheon with France present.
The luncheon ended with a request for donations to CCS, 1195 Mariners Drive, Warsaw, IN 46582. Donations can be made online at www.ccsgives.com. The telephone number is 574-269-6019.

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