By Rick Hiduk
Susquehanna County Interfaith provides a variety of services to local residents. Executive director Cindy Beeman cherishes the personal relationships she has developed with clients through the years and shares both their concerns and their triumphs. Many of the first time clients are enduring some sort of crisis, but Interfaith and Beeman are in for the long haul. She attributes the much of the ability of the organization to follow up with clients to support from the natural gas industry and the stable economy it has created.
Ongoing programs of Susquehanna County Interfaith include a back-to-school shoe and supply program, a massive Christmas drive, fuel assistance, and the Pathways program, all of which are endowed by local businesses. Some reap significant benefits from the organization, while others may simply save some money shopping at Interfaith’s thrift store.
“We want to help everybody – not just to put a band-aid on their problem but help them to look at their lives differently and set some goals,” Beeman explains. With assistance from Cabot Oil & Gas and other growing industries, “We’re now able to help people at a different level. We’re able to check up on them to make sure that things are going better for them. We can help them get past this crisis and prevent the next one.”
In the summer, new and returning families look to Interfaith to help them prepare for the new school year. “The telling part of that program is that the children are often wearing the shoes that they received the previous year,” Beeman related. The footwear is always of high quality, she maintains, but children grow out of clothing and footwear quickly. “They are very excited about getting a new pair of shoes. When they can start their school year with a new pair of shoes and supplies, they can look differently at the value of their education. Hopefully, it helps them do better in school.”
No sooner do students return to school than the weather turns colder, the need for home heating returns, and the holidays loom on an uncertain horizon. Susquehanna County Interfaith steps in to provide heating assistance for as many families as possible. “It’s wonderful to see the relief in their eyes when they don’t have to worry about how they are going to pay for their heat,” Beeman offers.
Christmastime can be particularly stressful to low-income families. That’s when the Interfaith organizations of Susquehanna and Wyoming counties rely more directly on Cabot to help make the holidays meaningful for more than a thousand people by providing toys, clothing, and even food for children, their parents, and senior citizens.
The initiative coordinated by the Susquehanna County Christmas Bureau, as the collaborative effort has come to be known, differs from others in that eligible families provide a wish list to their respective Interfaith office that includes a few special gifts that their children would especially enjoy.
“Cabot goes above and beyond with that,” Beeman related. While the gas company is not the only big contributor, it’s employees literally take to the task as would Santa and his elves. Last year, they took the cash donations, the wish lists, and a tractor-trailer to WalMart in Tunkhannock and spent a morning shopping and filling the truck. Beeman waited at Cabot’s headquarters in Springville and watched with delight as the crew returned with their bounty, having donned Christmas costumes along the way.
“I love to see them come in with the toys. It’s so fun watching Santa and his elves swooping in and being so excited about it,” Beeman said of last year’s toy drive. The items filled a large room at Cabot’s headquarters, from which they were sorted and wrapped for the individual families.”
“It’s so beyond what the parents are expecting,” Beeman explained. “They are all experiencing hardships of one kind or another. They weren’t going to have a meaningful Christmas. We were able to help all of them, especially with Cabot’s help.”
One mother thanked Beeman afterward for the clothing, which she said fit the children well, and added that her youngest child loved her Play-Doh. “It was a good reminder that even the little things count, and Cabot took care of the big things and the little things,” the Interfaith director recalled. “That excitement spreads. It’s not just Cabot. It inspires the generosity of other companies and individuals.”
Last Christmas, Beeman revived a call from a family that Interfaith had helped in the past who indicated that they wanted to assist another local family in a meaningful way. Shortly thereafter, a mother enduring an unexpected pregnancy with four children already at home contacted Interfaith. Due to various circumstances, her husband had lost his job.
“They were really living on nothing,” Beeman related. The family who wanted to give back were able to buy them diapers, presents for all of the children, and things that the parents needed. “They made a very nice Christmas for this family who was struggling. The best part about it was seeing the joy on the faces of the family who could now be the donor and pay it forward.”
The toy drive, Beeman maintains, is just one way that the involvement of gas companies in the communities in which they operate has made life better for so many people in Susquehanna County. There is a trickle-down effect, she maintains, that manifests itself in many positive directions.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that all of the gas and oil industry money goes out of state, but that is not true. Money comes to the organization that allows us to help people,” Beeman contends. “We’re then able to see that those people in crisis who we’ve helped are able to go out and find meaningful work and begin to make a livable wage. Everybody wants to be successful, and they want their family to be successful. The gas industry has provided a whole different way of living.”
The 2018 toy drive is coming up soon! Make sure to check back for details in the coming days.