Hope Conference grows bigger and offers solutions and resources

Conference gathers resources, solutions to assist residents

YOUNGSTOWN — About 150 organizations — around 25 more than last year — offered information, referrals and services to people seeking work, healthcare, sober living, children’s services and other help at this year’s Hope Conference at the Covelli Centre Thursday.

The daylong event filled the event floor and other areas with giveaways from many of the booths, plus the organization ACTION brought its mobile food market to the parking lot to allow people to redeem 150 vouchers for free food.

They were provided by the Mahoning County commissioners, Mercy Health and the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, said Rose Carter, ACTION’s executive director. Individuals receiving free food only had to show a driver’s license.

There are prices on the foot in the mobile food market, and once the person has shopped for the amount of food covered by their voucher, they have to pay for the rest. The organization Flying High Inc. provides the food, and Flying High’s clients worked the mobile market for ACTION, helping people get food.

The Hope Conference is organized by the city’s Community Initiative To Reduce Violence and is the “largest resource event held in the City of Youngstown each year,” organizers said.

Darla James, a parent engagement specialist with the Youngstown City School District, said the primary reason for engagement workers to participate in the conference is to “assist parents with their concerns and questions.

“We help them navigate their school and their child’s education. We help direct them in the right chain of command as far as concerns. We help them through meetings they have to with the principals to make sure the parents are heard,” she said. “We also direct them to different agencies for different things they may need,” she said.

Linda Hoey, director of engagement for YSCD, has been a part of many Hope Conferences over the years. She said the school district engagement staff became more versed on the services offered outside of the school district through interactions with those agencies at the conference.

For instance, on Thursday, Hoey met a representative from Premier Bank offering to provide educational sessions with parents on personal finance and financial literacy and how to budget and plan, Hoey said.

“That’s a partnership we just built right there,” she said. “What we will do is meet with her and put together something for our parents to come and help better educate them on finances, and our families need that because, with inflation, they definitely need to know how to manage a budget.”

She said the conference has agencies that can help parents suffering from an addiction to help them address these issues so they can regain custody of a child or children. There are organizations that provide assistance with mental health issues.

“A lot of times we will have families that will call us with one concern — like they have a child who is not reading very well, but then when you get to talking to that parent, they have a whole lot on them, where they really need to talk to somebody.

“We’ll end up on the phone with that person for like 45 minutes and in that 45 minutes, they have given us their life story, which is an indication that they need someone to talk to. And a lot of times, thinking about counseling doesn’t cross their mind,” she said.

That is because in many families, getting counseling is not something they understand or think about doing.

She said there is a lot of discussion today about people “airing their business” on Facebook, and “That is a clear sign of someone needing to talk to someone and not realizing it,” Hoey said.

The engagement personnel come to the conference even if they are not needed to staff the table so that they can collect information from the other organizations at the event, she said. “Then we can sit down and look at that information and see how can this help our families.”

The engagement staff are also educated on the 211 Help Hotline, which offers help to parents having difficulties. Engagement staff can access Help Hotline information online to provide accurate phone numbers for a parent to call.

“We don’t ever want to tell a parent ‘Go here,'” and then they go there and it’s a disappointment. A lot of our parents are not able to come to an event like this, so we come down here for them, and we can get that information for them,” she said.

The school district already has a lot of partnerships with community agencies such as United Way and MYCAP (the Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership),” she said. “The more resources we can tell them about, the better it is for them.

“If your essential needs are not met, you’re not really going to be able to get yourself involved in the education for your child. You’re worried about other things,” she said. “This is an event we come to every year.”

Greg Dulick of Youngstown was sitting outside of the Covelli Centre Thursday looking at the new tablet computer he got for $20 at the Hope Conference. He said he went there looking for help in finding help with his housekeeping needs because of the hip fracture he recently suffered that has not yet healed.

He said he got referrals for a couple of people he can contact to get that help. He also spoke to a healthcare company to find out alternative ways to get his health care costs covered.

“It really helped,” he said.


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