The Easton Area Neighborhood Center
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
Look no further than the definition of “community” as you get to know The Easton Area Neighborhood Center (EANC). Celebrating its golden anniversary this year, the group strives to combat poverty, homelessness, and hunger in the Lehigh Valley and has done so for the past 50 years.
“I love jigsaw puzzles and this is one for which I do not have the box,” says EANC Executive Director Judy Matthewson. “Maybe we will put the pieces together and see a beautiful landscape with gardens, a lovely shelter building, and a wondrous park. Maybe we will put the pieces together and see a cityscape of utilities and rental houses and restaurants where people live without want, or maybe we put the pieces together and find that it is not anything that we expected. And as we work, some of those pieces turn different colors as political and social situations change and we get a graphic that may be lovely but has no pattern. But as long as we are working on it, the possible outcomes are infinite and each of us can put in our own piece and influence the picture. How exciting is that?”
With just four full-time employees and one part-time clerical worker, services are possible through volunteers, donations, and Northampton County funds. Each program has different eligibility requirements and a strong focus on the Northampton County community. Most families receiving assistance are at or below 150 percent of the poverty level. “When an agency is as small as we are with such limited access to funding, we appreciate all of our friends who keep us in mind throughout the year,” Matthewson says.
In a typical year, EANC provides varying levels of assistance for roughly 3,000 people, including a minimum of 5 working families in the Roof Over program and around 20 pregnant or parenting teens in the ASPIRE program. The organization also offers a community room for free use by 12-step programs.
PROVIDING FOOD & SHELTER
With unwavering dedication, EANC embraces a grassroots community-based service model to offer aid through an array of social services designed to improve the quality of life for low to moderate income families and individuals. Key assistance programs cover essential aspects of living: housing, food, and utilities. Rental Assistance is available to those living in Northampton County, where EANC provides one month’s rent to prevent eviction or for use as a security deposit. Utility Assistance can help by securing lower monthly payments, arranging payment plans, or introducing programs to help pay past due bills.
The EANC also operates a Choice Pantry, with fresh produce from the Easton Urban Farm, where participants can choose a certain number of items from each food group rather than getting a mix of what is available. Running the food pantry this way helps to ensure that each person can choose familiar items, and above all, what their family will most enjoy. Residents of the 18042 zip code in need may visit the food pantry once per month on Fridays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.
“The donation of food is more critical than most people know. Although we are a part of the Second Harvest Food Bank, we still experience some weeks when we do not have enough food to distribute. At those times, the donations of food and grocery cards are a blessing,” Matthewson says.
The group’s Roof Over Transitional Shelter, located in downtown Easton, welcomes at least five working families with children per year. In addition to housing, Roof Over also provides case management to each family in residence. The shelter aims to support families as they find their footing with budgeting, saving, and stabilizing themselves.
EANC offers services for all ages and abilities. The Social Security Representative Payee program helps to monitor and manage funds for those unable to do it for themselves, ensuring bills are paid before releasing funds.
SUPPORTING TEEN PARENT SUCCESS
The group’s ASPIRE program lends a hand to pregnant and parenting teens during this new, exciting, and confusing chapter of their lives. ASPIRE is the result of a team effort between EANC, Easton Area School District, Nurse Family Partnership, and Communities in Schools.
The program offers group and one-on-one sessions as well as outside support to help teens manage the change and to give their new babies a more secure start in life. ASPIRE promotes education, encouraging participants to graduate high school, and also affords scholarships to those who complete the program, graduate, and plan to pursue higher education.
For more information about any of the programs or services, call 610.253.4253 or visit eastonareaneighborhoodcenter.org.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, call 610.253.4253 for information or to schedule a meeting with one of EANC’s case managers.
To support EANC, visit eastonareaneighborhoodcenter.org/support-eanc.html.