Troy People Concerned provides a lifeline during tough times

By: Andy Kozlowski | Troy Times | Published January 16, 2021

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TROY — The coronavirus has taken a sledgehammer to the U.S. economy, leaving many in a precarious position where money is tight and options are limited.

Troy People Concerned, or TPC, is one group trying to help people weather the storm, but its task is complicated by the pandemic canceling fundraising events.

TPC is a nonprofit, so all donations are tax deductible. Charitable giving tends to drop after the holidays, so donations are appreciated now more than ever, the group said. Volunteers are also sought.

The group normally operates from an office space at 2045 Austin Drive in Troy, donated by Alliance Mobile Health. However, the group is currently operating from home due to the pandemic.

George Houston, the lead pastor at Stone Haven Free Methodist Church, is the president of TPC. He was recently elected to the position.

“As a referral agency, we help Troy families who are in a short-term crisis. These situations are frequently due to a sudden loss of income, an accident, medical reasons, or pending evictions and utility shutoffs,” Houston said in an email. “We work closely with local churches and Troy schools to provide assistance to those in need. We are looking for individuals who care about others and are willing to provide input and guidance.

“Illness and/or job loss due to the pandemic has impacted many members of our community that were already living on the edge, as well as families that had previously enjoyed financially stable lives,” he said. “Requests for help with food are ongoing throughout the pandemic. However, we’ve noticed an increase in requests for financial assistance in the area, since the moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs has been lifted. We do not give funds directly to clients, but make payments directly to the utilities.”

 

A community resource
TPC was formed in 1974 when local churches teamed up to pool resources. It operates mainly as an information and referral agency, but depending on the need, the group can also provide direct financial or other assistance. The group also runs a food pantry and provides assistance to elderly residents, and works with local schools to help meet the needs of students and their families.

The year 2020 has been especially difficult, with the pandemic causing and prolonging a recession that has left many businesses struggling, and many people unemployed or underemployed. It is against this backdrop that TPC and groups like it have been trying to help others.

According to the group’s annual report, TPC fielded over 200 contacts a month in 2020, providing direct financial assistance to avert utility shutoffs and evictions, supporting the Troy Schools’ “Back to School Blast” — a backpack and school supplies distribution — and organizing a children’s Christmas party through the Troy Fire Department, as well as facilitating a leaf-raking program for senior citizens during the fall, assembling and delivering holiday food baskets to area residents, and co-sponsoring the St. Anastasia Food Pantry.

The efforts of TPC were made more difficult by the cancellation of critical fundraising events due to COVID-19. The group had to cancel its biggest moneymaker: the annual spring pasta dinner and silent auction. The group also saw a decline in giving from its main donor bases of individuals, churches and other community groups.

However, the annual report notes that TPC was able to offset most of the budget shortfall with proceeds from a Federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, and through a grant from the Oakland County Community Response and Recovery Fund.

Shortly after the start of the pandemic, TPC staff also moved from the office to working from home, while striving to maintain the same level of service. Special efforts were also made to keep expenses under control.

In 2021, cost control and finding new revenue streams will be key for the group — the one-time federal and county funding allowed TPC to operate at relatively normal levels during 2020, but the group anticipates those funds will not be available again in 2021.

Cindy Stewart, the community affairs director for the city of Troy, joined the TPC board in 2010 and has served as the secretary of the volunteer board.

“TPC is like no other nonprofit in the area in that it helps only Troy residents who find themselves in a crisis situation,” Stewart said in an email. “While 2020 has been extremely difficult due to the pandemic, TPC has been around for close to 50 years, helping Troy families that face difficulties related to many other catastrophes, such as medical issues or job loss.

“But TPC is not a permanent solution for anyone in a crisis. TPC is primarily an information and referral agency,” she said, explaining that in many cases the group can direct people to the agencies in the area that are best equipped to help them.
Houston encourages anyone in need to not hesitate in reaching out.

“Every need is special and different. Many people have lost employment through no fault of their own. They don’t need people to tell them what they did wrong; they need people that are willing to help them get back on their feet,” Houston said. “If you find yourself temporarily in need of assistance, do not be dissuaded by those who tell you that you can’t get help. The situation can change quickly, and new resources can appear and disappear quickly.

“For those who are working with individuals to help them learn new skills, such as updating their job skills or learning how to budget, we would appreciate information so we can pass it onto our clients.”

 

How you can help
There are several ways people can get involved as volunteers. People are needed for community events or to provide services such as raking leaves for seniors. With more volunteers, TPC can help more people. The group is also looking for people from the Troy area who can help shape initiatives as members of the board.

There’s also a need for volunteers to help with the auction at the annual pasta dinner, and to solicit sponsors and donations for auction items.

People who are knowledgeable about resources in the community are also needed, in particular those who know about potential referral groups and classes in Troy.

To volunteer or apply for the board, call (248) 528-9199 or email TPCtohelp@sbcglobal.net.

Checks can be mailed to Troy People Concerned, 2045 Austin Drive, Troy, MI, 48083, or donate at troypeopleconcerned.org. Call (248) 528-9199 to arrange for donations of nonperishable food items or gift cards to support TPC and the St. Anastasia Food Pantry.

“While many people see Troy as an affluent community, there are still many residents who are feeling the individual pain of the current economic situation,” Houston said. “We are fortunate to be able to provide a backstop for community members who have nowhere else to turn for the next meal or for assistance with rent or utilities until they get back on their feet.”

Added Stewart: “As a person working full-time with a family, my spare time is very precious to me. I know that by volunteering with Troy People Concerned, I am truly making a difference.”

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