Agencies Work Together to Strengthen Community Impact

By: Lesly Bailey Last Updated: May 27, 2014

dayspring-drug-pcfccPorter County Family Counseling Center has joined Dayspring Women’s Center as a complementary agency sharing resources and office space at Porter County Aging and Community Services, 1005 N. Campbell St.

Executive Director Rachel Niemi, who oversees both organizations, said having offices for both agencies under one roof is key to their growth and development. “Part of coming together is we are not competing agencies but complementary agencies and by coming together we can share staff, interns, volunteer resources … all that adds up to cutting overhead costs for both agencies,” she said.

PCFCC provides low-cost individual, couples and family therapy for uninsured and underinsured community members. Graduate students are supervised by a licensed clinician.

“It has been around in one form or another for 35 years. The idea is students are learning and training while providing a really good service to the community,” Niemi said. “We are refocusing on how to fuse the two agencies together and working on strategizing.”

The counseling services are a component that Dayspring program participants may need as they work to become self-sufficient.

Dayspring seeks to assist women who are homeless, at-risk of becoming homeless or transitioning out of homelessness through case management, group classes and key daily needs such as laundry facilities, showers, lockers and computer access.

Dayspring is now open five days a week and continues to foster a sense of community.

“We are trying to open up different events to the entire community of women struggling with homeless. We just had a Mary Kay Spa Day and we invited women not just from our group but area shelters,” Niemi said. “We have a sense of community where women can socialize and feel less isolated and connect to peers in similar circumstances. I find we have a core group of women who come back here even after they ‘graduate’ from the program to be here for other women in this environment. It’s a place they can go and just be and be without judgment.”

The agency is able to serve with the assistance of donations and volunteers including a core group that numbers 45.

One of those volunteers, Kathy DeWitt, has taken on a new role as director of community outreach for Dayspring and PCFCC.

The former market research business owner had retired a couple years ago when she found a connection with Niemi at a volunteer orientation/training event.

“Every time Rachel got to something that touched her heart, she physically went like this (Kathy puts her hand on her heart) … I thought, ‘I like her,’” DeWitt said.

She will focus on fund-raising for both organizations, building on the recent Give Local Day.

“From my perspective, it’s about raising awareness. If people understood what Dayspring and PCFCC do, why wouldn’t they donate?” she said. “Hopefully, Give Local brought a whole lot of awareness …it energized our volunteers, our board and it energized me that we had this kind of response. Energy is important to keep things moving forward.”

DeWitt recently uncovered another source of inspiration for her work that is from her own personal past experiences.

She was writing her story as part of an exercise from the book, “The Generosity Network,” that focuses on a different way to approach fund-raising. Her story included living with her grandparents after her parents divorced.

“I grew up with my grandparents. There are some people who have not had that support. (Later) my mother lived with me for 15 years, otherwards, she could have become homeless,” she said. “I see pieces of my mother in every woman who comes through the door here. I have so much more patience for these ladies … Taking my mom in, what did that mean for my kids? Now, I look at it as I was teaching my kids kindness.

“The picture of homelessness in my head is different than what it is. We are led to believe it is that guy who lives in a cardboard box. It’s that, but also a whole lot more.” For more information, follow the agencies on Facebook and to stay up-to-date on news and events, including this fall’s return of ScreamFest on Oct. 4 along with the addition of a Zombie Run.

With photo: The team will be working together to strengthen both Porter County Family Counseling Center and Dayspring Women’s Center at their new location under one roof. From left are Kathy DeWitt, director of community outreach for Dayspring and PCFCC; Sue Bannon, office manager for Dayspring and PCFCC; Rachel Niemi, executive director of both agencies; and Aly Kasper, program manager at Dayspring.