The Way Station already has some contracts with Columbiana County.
By JULIE A. WAGNER
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
COLUMBIANA -- A state official spent the day touring The Way Station and urged the not-for-profit agency's leaders to pursue federal funds next year.
Krista Rush Sisterhen, director of Gov. Bob Taft's Faith Based and Community Initiatives, toured the Christian ministry's facilities in East Liverpool and East Palestine before speaking at a luncheon at its main facility in Columbiana.
"This is not about money. This is not about religion. This is about results," Sisterhen told board members, clergy and workers.
She told them that President Bush is seeking a large increase in the federal budget for three initiatives: helping prisoners re-enter society, mentoring children of prisoners and strengthening families.
Of the amount eventually budgeted for these, 15 percent will stay with the federal government to be distributed directly to agencies rather than filtered through state governments. Sisterhen said that her office wants to help agencies such as The Way Station to compete for those federal funds. She said that many groups will try to start programs to access the funds, but The Way Station already has the needed infrastructure.
"You've got a track record here. A really strong one," she said.
There to help
The purpose of her office, Sisterhen said, is to help smaller, faith-based organizations compete against larger, secular groups for the money. She explained that there are no funds specifically tagged for faith-based groups, but the state and federal faith-based initiatives help these groups to compete for money that is available to all groups.
Melinda Holsopple, co-executive director of The Way Station, said that the agency does help prisoners re-entering society, but it does not have a program specifically for the group.
"With funding available it would allow us perhaps to do something more formal," Holsopple said. Some of The Way Station's programs aim at raising self-esteem in youths and helping build families, she said. The agency also provides clothing and household goods for women in a halfway house.
The Way Station already has partnered with some government agencies. Pamela Skinner of the Columbiana County Department of Job and Family Services said The Way Station has contracted with the county to provide after-school programs in Columbiana, East Liverpool and Lisbon. It has also joined in Welfare to Work activities and a program to promote entrepreneurship for teenagers, she said.
Filling a need
Private programs help some people the government can't reach, Skinner said.
"A lot of families out there have needs, but they don't want to walk into a government agency and say, 'I need help,'" she said.
The Way Station's programs also include food, clothing and money assistance; literacy and English as a second language courses; job readiness and training in light manufacturing and retail; and information for churches to start social programs. Its Wheels to Work program provides no-interest loans for used cars. The Ezra Center in East Liverpool is a residential treatment center for chemically dependent teenagers. About 50 percent of the Ezra residents are from Mahoning County.