Here to Help offers assistance to those who are helping themselves

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published December 17, 2014

 The Here to Help Foundation, which started in 2007, offers assistance, such as purchasing used cars for getting to and from work, to those who are trying to become independent from federal assistance.

The Here to Help Foundation, which started in 2007, offers assistance, such as purchasing used cars for getting to and from work, to those who are trying to become independent from federal assistance.

Photo submitted by the Here to Help Foundation

HUNTINGTON WOODS — Husband and wife Bob and Robin Schwartz saw the same families and individuals returning for federal assistance time and time again, but never making the changes that would help them economically in the long-run.

So, in 2007 using an inheritance from Bob’s late father, the couple started the Here to Help Foundation, an organization that aimed to help individuals struggling financially in ways so they would end up not needing the help in the future.

“We were looking for a way to assist individuals directly, and originally we were looking to establish a private foundation, but we wanted to be a little different,” Bob Schwartz said. “We wanted to have a more hands-on approach to help people directly that have hit an economic hurdle in their life, and with our help, they can move forward.”

The couple researched for more than a year how to best structure their organization, and they gained IRS approval in 2007 while meeting with several local charities in Wayne and Oakland counties. In seven years, Here to Help has been able to offer assistance to more than 3,500 people.

Working along the Woodward Avenue corridor, Bob Schwartz said there really weren’t very many organizations nationwide that were aiming to offer the same assistance to the same people Here to Help was looking to assist.

“We are designed to help people who are working hard to be self-sufficient or independent but need help getting over that hurdle. And with our help, they can,” he said. “We want to help those that are trying to help themselves. When we began, it was at a time when others in Michigan were having a bit of an economic crisis and a lot of people were in need. And there really wasn’t an avenue to turn to in order to get assistance.”

Here to Help works through qualified advocates for people who are in need of assistance, such as social workers or other charities, so there is someone vouching for the individual, Bob Schwartz said. The organization offers help for people to pay bills or to purchase new furniture if they were homeless or endured a fire.

One of the most successful programs that Here to Help has offered, Robin Schwartz said, is helping individuals find working cars to get to and from work.

“We have various programs within our foundation from assistance with rent, utilities and car repairs, but the biggest is we purchase used vehicles for people who work 35-40 hours per week who don’t have a vehicle or had a vehicle break down,” she said. “We are really one of the main sources for used vehicles, and at $2,500 a vehicle, we offer a lot of help and want to keep this program going. We often get thank-you notes from people we have assisted and photos of them with their cars.”

Now entering the organization’s eighth year, Bob and Robin said they are looking to start fundraising in order to continue their programs and even reach more people in need. By visiting www.heretohelpfoundation.org, the public can make a donation and indicate which program they would like to have the donation go toward.

Robin Schwartz said the foundation will notify anyone who makes a donation of how their money was used to help someone.

“We really want to help people move forward,” she said. “We are not like a Band-Aid, but like a bridge and last resort. When someone applies, they have to have looked into other assistance. And then we want to go ahead and help those individuals”

Though the economy has bounced back in recent years, Robin Schwartz said in this area, good jobs can still be hard to come by. And while some can live off federal assistance for a while, there are those who want to be independent but just need a little help.

“There are a lot of people who work really hard every day to make things happen and keep their families together and happy, but they struggle in our minimum-wage era,” she said. “A lot of people are forced to work part-time now because companies are not offering full-time as much. It is hard with people working paycheck to paycheck, and then they come across a hurdle like their car breaks down and they have to get to work or they are ill and missed work and now rent is behind.

“What might seem like a simple issue becomes a huge issue because it starts to spiral without help.”