Organizational Beginnings

Project Help began in the late 1980’s as an outgrowth of the Steuben County Ministerial Association’s efforts to help transients passing through our county.  Typically the local sheriff’s department or an area church would contact me as the treasurer of the SCMA in order to underwrite with funds the sheltering of a transient at a local hotel for one (1) night, and to provide a gasoline voucher as needed.  In reviewing the expense of such care, the SCMA decided that sheltering and feeding the homeless could be done more effectively through our own efforts than by outsourcing these efforts to local motels and restaurants.

Project Help was one-half of a new vision of how areal churches could fulfill a shared mission of providing food, clothing and shelter for our area’s most needy residents.  The SCMA decided it would challenge the community to create two (2) separate local organizations, a homeless shelter for transients and those experiencing temporary housing needs in a crisis, and a central food and clothing bank to help local residents who were episodically in need of such crisis management support.

Thus began the ministries of Turning Point Shelter and of Project Help, both begun at the same time and for a shared purpose of providing area churches an opportunity to practice what we otherwise preach in the form of good works evangelism and compassionate care to those in need.

Those who were instrumental in the leadership of this young organization were myself, Rev. Wayne Brass of the First Congregational Church, Mr. Richard Waymire, who I believe was the first president of Project Help’s board of directors, and Ms. Linda Kluzinski, the first Executive Director of both Project HELP and Turning Point Shelter.

Project Help was initially housed in rooms adjacent to the offices of the Steuben County Red Cross, which at that time were in an upstairs office in one of the buildings on southeast side of the square in downtown Angola, above a beauty shop I believe.  Clothes and food began to be stored there, but we soon ran out of space, and so in that first year, 1989 I believe, we moved the office and supplies to the empty parsonage of the Holy Family Episcopal Church on South Darling Street.

I don’t remember exactly the timing of our next move, but probably within a year or less we moved again to an unused storage building owned by Mr. Tony Romero, a local plumbing and heating contractor, across from the Angola Police Station on Gilmore Street about two (2) blocks from the center of Angola.  This storage building became the operational headquarters for Project Help for its first decade throughout the 1990’s.  While primitive and poorly furnished, it was functional and adequate for our modest needs.

Leadership Challenges