The River, a resource center for families in Washington County, has served the area for 18 years, but its staff continue to strengthen and expand its ties to the community.
This week, The River will celebrate the eighth anniversary of its diaper supply program. Next month, it will start a new program for people formerly homeless who are transitioning into housing.
Since starting the J. Walter Brown Changing Lives From the Bottom Up Diaper Program in February 2013, The River’s volunteers have distributed 350,000 diapers to families that need them. Currently, 67 families in Washington County with 88 children benefit from the program.
Twice a month, volunteers give 28 diapers to families of children enrolled in the program. That’s supposed to meet a quarter of the monthly need for diapers.
“Diapers are some of the things you can’t buy with WIC or food stamps,” The River’s Executive Director Stacy Larsen said Tuesday. “They can cost $100 per month, which a lot of families can’t afford. It can be stressful for families when they have to decide whether they’re going to pay the electric bill or buy diapers.”
The diaper program was started those years ago with a grant from the Harris Fund for Washington County, now the Washington County Community Foundation. It’s sustained with funding from the Mooneyhan Family Foundation.
Like it, The River’s new transitioning homeless initiative was initially started with money from the Washington County Community Foundation.
With that $12,000 grant, the Welcome Home Program will start providing workshops and supplies on March 24 to people getting back to housing after homelessness.
“When people are making the transition from being homeless, they’re starting from scratch,” Larsen said. “If they have any money, they may have spent it for utilities, the month’s rent, a deposit, and they may be struggling to be able to afford supplies, and that’s another thing you can’t buy with food stamps.”
The kits that will be distributed by The River include gloves, cleaners, can openers, laundry baskets, buckets and other household necessities. A trainer from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Washington County Extension Office will lead workshops to teach participants common homemaking tasks.
The program is targeted at people who may have struggled maintaining homes in the past to help them find success in a new house and to stay housed.
Larsen said working at The River, she noticed a need in the community for the program.
“When we see a need, we try to do something,” she said.
The current grant term for the Welcome Home program is two years. After that, Larsen said she hopes other local organizations step in to help fund it to keep it running.
For more information about The River or its programs, visit https://theriverministryforwomen.com/ or visit its center at 125 W. Main St., Johnson City.