Access of West Michigan
Congregation Connections Logo

WHAT IS CONGREGATION CONNECTIONS?

Congregation Connections links social services and faith groups, working to strengthen communities throughout Kent County by supporting ministry and outreach teams. We collaborate with over 200 congregations across 17 denominations, offering training and casework services.

OUR MISSION AND VISION

Our mission is to connect the faith-based community to issues of justice and stewardship within their benevolence outreach.

We envision a thriving network of faith communities that act as centers of relationship and connection with their neighbors.

CONGREGATION CASEWORK

The Access caseworkers support congregations in stewarding resources and funds in their benevolence outreach programs. We do this by providing casework services at no cost with the goal of the congregation building relationship with neighbors that come to them for assistance.

It’s important to us that congregations are able to build relationships with their neighbors and engage their communities in effective ways. So when a neighbor makes a request to the congregation for resource assistance, the congregation connects with Access to provide casework services and gather local resources on behalf of the congregation so that they can have more time to focus on building those relationships and be good stewards of their communities. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Congregation Casework services are free of cost to the congregations that utilize it! However this does not mean the program does not cost anything to run. The average cost per case is $24, as estimated from our yearly budget and the number of casework services. We encourage and are immensely grateful for any and all church donations to the Congregation Connections Program as it ensures we are able to continue our services for all our partner congregations.

For the Access caseworkers to fully check an individual’s history the information needed is as follows: Name, Date of Birth, Last four digits of Social Security number, Address, and Utility Account numbers or Landlord contact information (if relevant to the individual’s need). Having all of the above information helps to keep the Access Database up to date and ensure the information the Access caseworkers share is correct and accurate.

Our role at Access is to support congregations as they address assistance requests of their neighbors. This allows the congregation the opportunity to build a relationship with the individual neighbor while we handle the backend casework needs. Therefore please do not refer neighbors directly to us, as they will receive any needed information through the congregation.

Access caseworkers are available from 8 am – 4 pm, M-F. It may take up to 24 – 48 hours to receive a response email from one of the Access Caseworkers, if we have not responded to your email within 48 hours then please send us a follow-up email to us to make sure that your email was not sent to the wrong email or missed by one of our caseworkers. We receive many requests each day and may not be able to get to all the emails by the end of the day.

It is Access’ policy to NOT give out congregation names or contact information. Additionally it is also Access’ policy to NOT refer individuals to other congregations. This policy protects congregations from becoming like an “agencies” where individuals can apply for assistance. Access wants to respect congregations as the each have their own policies and guidelines as to who they will serve and with how much they will assist. 

However, if a congregation is working with an individual and the individual has a very unique and substantial need (that cannot be covered by other community resources) the Access Caseworkers may look into their need and see if it may warrant a Needs Alert. For more information about the Needs Alert process please contact the Access Caseworkers at caseworker@accessofwestmichigan.org.

Congregations have a unique opportunity to get to know an individual and hear their story through conducting an intake. Access encourages congregations to take advantage of that opportunity as it provides an additional insight to the individual’s life. Additionally, Access is not a client direct service agency and does not have the staff capacity to conduct intakes for every individual congregations contact us about. If you or your congregation is unsure of how to conduct an intake or what the process looks like, the Access Caseworkers can provide a free training, Benevolence 101, for you and your congregation to look at best practices including conducting a thorough intake. For more information about the Benevolence 101 training please contact our Senior Caseworker Nikeyia Perkins at niki@accessofwestmichigan.org.

To help congregations responding to needs in the community Access can send checks for individual’s needs on your congregation’s behalf. To have a check sent by Access the benevolence contact person simply needs to contact the Access Caseworkers and request a check be sent and provide the correct name and address to where the check should be sent e.g. Landlord’s name and address. At the end of the month Access will send an invoice to your congregation with the total amount of money sent on behalf of you congregation so your congregation can write one check for the total amount. Additionally Access will need the current address and financial contact person for your congregation to where we can send the invoice at the end of the month to which the congregation has a month to make the payment.

There is no charge for this casework service! We do however depend on your congregation’s promptness in paying the invoices as we must utilize our own funds to send checks out on congregations’ behalf. We do welcome and appreciate any financial support or donations for our Congregation Connections program!

ASSISTANCE REQUEST INTAKE FORM

CONGREGATIONS CONNECTIONS STAFF

ADDITIONAL CONGREGATION CONNECTIONS RESOURCES