by Alex Muto
The Hart Assistance Referral Team, known as HART Interfaith Inc., is a unique Niagara County program for home care referral. There are plenty of local health care agencies and service providers for individuals in need of home care, help with chores, or companionship. Yet for those who don't know where to seek these services, there are few available resources for the search process.
HART Interfaith Inc., housed at First Presbyterian Church of Lewiston, was created in Niagara County in 1982 to provide for this service gap. The program's founders recognized what HART Interfaith Inc.'s website describes as "a growing need for individuals to receive affordable help in their homes." The program connects clients to employees or businesses that suit their needs. Clients or concerned family members of an individual will contact HART Interfaith Inc. and ask for assistance finding the appropriate care.
Sue McBee, program director of HART Interfaith Inc., says, "We will get a phone call from someone who needs help or someone living far away concerned about their relatives, who might need anything from help going to Tops, to caring for their garden, even bringing them out to lunch. These are our most common scenarios. We then connect them with help."
The service does so with careful attention to the most reasonable, fair, and qualified local services. Potential employees and agencies on HART's contact list are meticulously evaluated before being networked with clients. As McBee notes, "We have an extensive list of people and services with many different skills. We have about 250 potential employees and companies to refer our clients to. We do background checks and personal reference checks to ensure that our clients receive the best service."
The program offers quality support to clients without expecting profit, or even payment, for their efforts. Instead, HART connects the prospective employer and prospective employee so that they can negotiate a price for the employee's services. The employer pays directly or with insurance.
According to McBee, HART Interfaith is a non-profit that only uses minimal funding from donations and grants. She explains, "We are a small non-profit. I'm the only person working during all open hours, and we have a few office employees. The church gives us office space, and any costs we incur we gain through donations and grants. We do not seek clients to fund us." The business has remained true to its mission.
HART Interfaith also is an unparalleled organization. McBee explained that HART is not only the only one of its kind in Niagara County, but also anywhere in Western New York. "We are very unique, period. We are unique because of the services that we offer. We even get requests from Erie County asking what kinds of services are in their community, and if there's a matching program in their community. They have nothing of its kind there."
Many Niagara County organizations recognize the value of this stellar community service program. Niagara University recently brought attention to Niagara County's fortune for it having access to a group like HART Interfaith. "We have just received an award from Niagara University's Our Lady of Angels Association, said McBee. "The award was the Rev. Martin Blake Award for Good Neighbors," which honors loyal, continuous service to the community.
HART Interfaith Inc. has other reasons to celebrate. In September, the program will celebrate its 30th anniversary of service with a "birthday party." The affair takes place Thursday, Sept. 20, from 5 until 8 p.m. at The Brickyard Pub and B.B.Q., 432 Center St. Supporters of HART Interfaith will enjoy a meet-and-greet with many contests and prizes including raffles, a 50/50 event, prizes, food, fun, and games. Tickets cost $10, and can be purchased from the Brickyard or at HART Interfaith.
McBee hopes the event will raise some money for the organization, but she is more concerned about gaining community support for the group. She states, "Although the event is technically a fundraiser, the event is meant to raise awareness more than anything else. However, we are hoping to make about $1,000 for HART Interfaith Inc."
McBee also explains that the celebration will be "year-long." Other future planned events include a Victorian tea luncheon at the First Presbyterian Church in Lewiston on April 20, 2013, and a gala dinner at Niagara Falls Country Club following HART Interfaith's annual meeting on June 22, 2013.
HART Interfaith Inc. has proven itself to be a service unparalleled in numerous ways. The program's workers offer their time to make home life as safe and comfortable for clients in the region as possible. And with 30 years of helping, the Niagara community looks forward to many more years of service and generosity from Hart Interfaith.
To contact HART for assistance or questions, call 716-754-8318 between 8 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday.