FROM Updates Eligibility Requirements Needed to Qualify for Programs

Flat River Outreach Ministries (FROM) recently increased its eligibility requirement from 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to 300% FPL. This change means that more individuals and families will be able to receive help from more than a dozen programs and services offered by the non-profit organization. This correlates to an individual making $40,770 or less and a family of four making $83,250 or less being able to receive help if living within the Lowell Area Schools footprint. 

Increasing Income Requirements

According to Arianne Hall, Development Director at FROM, families between 200-300% FPL are typically able to cover expenses and basic needs most of the time. However, many may not be able to cover additional expenses or unexpected expenses such as medical bills, car repair, or rental deposits. In Lowell, about 1 in 3 families find themselves in this position. United Way uses the acronym ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, to explain and understand the struggles of those with income above the FPL but wrestle with added expenses. 

During the onset of the pandemic, FROM saw an increase in higher-income families needing to use their programs due to layoffs. For many, assistance programs in Kent County have a strict income requirement. This means a family of four with a yearly income of about $55,500 would not qualify. FROM’s qualification adjustment means more Lowell community residents will be able to receive help when needed.

In 2021 the organization helped 624 families and 1615 individuals through the various programs and services available. The Food Pantry helps more than 100 families each month.

Relieving Individual and Family Pressures

Through its programs and resources, FROM is able to alleviate some of the burdens of those who are struggling financially. The Food Pantry serves as a place where groceries can be purchased at a reduced cost. An unexpected eye doctor appointment may be covered so a child can start school. Or the Christmas Toy store may help a family be able to provide gifts so money can instead be used to pay for heating costs during the winter months. 

“Although 300% of the Federal Poverty Level may seem high, we also recognize that the increased cost of living – gas, groceries, rent, utilities – is all greatly impacting our community,” says Hall. “We have already seen an uptick in families utilizing our services and anticipate it to continue to rise in the coming weeks and months.”

FROM offers help in the areas of Health Food Options, Family Support, Connections to Resources, and Housing in addition to their Thrift Store. Their oldest and most well-known program is their Food Pantry. Families can shop up to once every two weeks for products that are focused on healthy food. 

A program that isn’t as prominent is the Connections Office where families are connected to resources to help and educate. It also assists financially with rent deposits, utility payments, and more.

The Thrift Shop is a way members of the community can support FROM programs. The public is invited to donate to and shop at the store. The newest program is the Farm Market. This is located in the Thrift Store and is available for anyone and offers fresh produce and pantry staples. Items can be purchased for about 80% of retail prices.

For some programs including Commodities (TEFAP), Senior Commodities (CSFP), Mobile Food Pantry, and the VITA Income Tax Preparation Program, FROM serves as a distribution site and partners with other organizations to bring services to the community. 

To participate in a FROM program, you must live in the Lowell Area Schools District and have an income at or below 300% FPL or have an expressed need. The Backpack Distribution, Christmas Toy Store, and Food Basket programs have additional requirements. For programs that FROM facilitates, guidelines for specific programs must be met. Anyone interested in inquiring about programs can call the main office at 616-897-8260 to learn more.

Upcoming Events and Volunteer Opportunities

FROM’s Repair & Restore program will take place on April 23. Information about volunteering to help and to sign up to receive help can be found here in a recent press release. While the deadline to sign up to have a project worked on at your home has passed, those wishing to volunteer to help with the event are still welcome.

Throughout the month of May, the annual Food Fight will have north and south challenging each other to see who can raise more money and food to help fill the pantry. Over the course of the past decade wins for each side are nearly even.

Anyone interested in volunteering can check out this section of FROM’s website or call the main office at 616-897-8260 and ask to speak with Erynn, the Volunteer Coordinator. Thrift Store sorters and cashiers for Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are needed. 

Those who are facing difficulties are encouraged to contact FROM to see how the non-profit organization can provide assistance. “We’re so thankful for our community and for continuously coming together to help families facing hardships in our community,” says Hall. 

If you’re interested in learning about FROM and its programs visit its website. You can also follow them on Facebook or Instagram for more information.

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