From our Customers
Donna Berkey & Pam Grant
I have volunteered at the Portage Community Center for over a year now, not only has it enlighted me to the many programs and assistance available to Portage residents and Kalamazoo County residents, but also I have made lifelong friends that I wouldn't trade for anything. I don't know where my family would have been the past couple of years without the support of the Center staff, professionally as well as emotionally.
I am a single mom of three terrific teenagers. I have been the main source of income for many years and was even able to save some money on occasion. My job was discontinued due to a re-organization. I was also caring for my mother, my best friend, who was dying from cancer. My funds were dwindling, but I didn't worry about that as with my vast work experience and excellent references, I did not expect to have trouble finding a job (right!!). We lost my mom in January 2007 and after taking care of her final bills, there was little to nothing left over and my savings were becoming exhausted. The job hunt began and began and began. I am 56 years old and about 3/4 of the way toward a Bachelor's degree. I found out all of my past work experience didn't really matter anymore. I had never needed to ask for help before, having always handled everything myself. Asking for help was for everyone but me and my family - or that's the way it had been, but times were changing. I was probably going to have to lose our family home.
I decided to go to my community center for guidance. My daughter, Jayme, had taken advantage of their tutoring program when she was 8 (she's now 17) and at that time I had gotten to know Ruth at the Center. I stopped in to see Ruth and the rest is history. They gave me direction on what to do with a late Consumers bill, late water bill, and provided food the couple of times we needed it. The staff referred me to a job that was temporary (8 weeks), which I took but the job search continues. Although we did lose our family home, we were able to remain in Portage.
Since that time our whole family has volunteered at the Center. As a family we help out at Christmas with the Food Baskets and "adopted" families program. Jayme is still involved with Ruth and helps out with the youth programs. My daughter, Sara, is attending college full time, working two jobs, and still finds time to come volunteer with the Clothing Bar and with fund raising activities. Volunteering has allowed me to give back to the Center a tiny bit of what they have helped me with and it also gives me the opportunity to network as I continue the job search.
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Dameon's mother had the following to say about his experiences in the PCC After School and Tutoring programs.
Dameon got great assistance through the Tutoring Program - it helped bring up his grades substantially. After tutoring, he joined the After School Program and enjoyed the activities and made good friends - even from other schools. The program offers great social activities and also taught him life skills. He can't wait for school to start again so he come back.
My husband, Rory, and I have utilized many programs at the Portage Community Center for approximately six years. The programs we have used over the years include the Food and Financial Assistance services, the Free Legal Clinic, Income Tax Assistance, the Public Housing Commission voucher program, and the Family Health Center. Rory has had problems finding stable employment, and due to my recent health concerns over the past couple of years I have been unable to work. We would not be where we are now - in stable housing and on our way to being more economically stable - if it wasn't for the programs that are provided by the Portage Community Center. The staff are always friendly, knowledgeable, courteous and professional when we inquire about a need for a particular program or service. We will always be indebted to the many facets of help availble at the Center.