It was 1968. Civil rights issues were at the forefront of social and political unrest, creating a volatile environment. Women and minorities were demanding equal rights. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Sit-ins and civil protests turned violent. Cities burned.

In the midst of this instability, ProJeCt — one of the organizations that walkers can support in the annual Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community — was created.

ProJeCt: Interfaith Efforts to Address Poverty

The human services agency ProJeCt was founded by clergy and community leaders in Easton, Pennsylvania, to address issues related to poverty so that their city would not experience the violence taking place in other U.S. cities.

Our agency name reflects the Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic interfaith roots of the founding leaders. ProJeCt advocates for action to meet the needs of hungry, homeless, and poorly educated adults and children with the intention of building a better community in which all people can contribute and participate. Its mission is to help people help themselves.

I have been with ProJeCt for nearly two years as community relations manager, and the agency’s history inspires me every day. At a time of great turmoil and strife, the founders of ProJeCt did not sit back and wait for others to do something. They looked around at the problems, rolled up their sleeves and asked, “What can we do?” And then they acted. Today this spirt of activism continues to drive the agency’s efforts to make a real and meaningful difference in the lives of community members.

We assist more than 5,000 people a year, serving Easton and the surrounding communities. ProJeCt services include:

  • Emergency ASSISTance, a program that provides shelter, prescription medications and other essential materials support
  • Food pantry
  • Case management support services that assist people in developing life skills and moving to self-sufficiency
  • Student Success Program
  • Information and referral services
  • SIZZLE!, a free summer literacy day camp for at-risk, low-income children in grades K-4
  • Educational programs that include adult basic literacy, English as a second language, GED preparation, family literacy and supplemental education programs for school-age children

These services are only part of the story. The best way to understand what ProJeCt does is to look at our impact on individual lives.

Evelyn: Bridging the Gap to Self-Sufficiency

Evelyn R. is a 50-year-old mother of two adult children, one of whom is a 29-year-old son with disabilities who requires 24/7 care. She was about to lose her housing, in danger of eviction due to an unexpected loss of income. That’s when our ProJeCt team stepped in, working with the family and connecting with other resources and partners to bridge the gap to self-sufficiency, and help the family find safe, accessible and affordable housing.

Evelyn told ProJeCt staff, “I do not know what I would have done without you.”

Danny: The Gift of Lifelong Learning

Danny B. was tutored through ProJeCt several years ago and came back just to say how grateful he is for our education services program. Because of the help he received from ProJeCt, he was able to earn his CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) certification and secure a job. He told us he also takes great pride in choosing to read something every day.

Danny said he will never forget his tutor’s face and the freedom she gave him by helping him with his reading.

Highmark Helps ProJeCt to Help Others

ProJeCt's early reading program

Congressman Matt Cartwright helps out with ProJeCt’s SIZZLE! Program, which builds reading skills for kids grades K-4.

Although ProJeCt receives most of its funding from individual contributions, government contracts and grants, fundraising is an important component of the agency’s ability to sustain its services.

The Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community is a key event in fundraising for our agency each year. In fact, we’re proud to say that 2016 will be our 12th year participating in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community. Since Highmark Inc. underwrites the entire cost of the walk, all funds raised directly benefit our agency when it is selected by walkers and donors as their designated charity/nonprofit organization.

Get Involved

Unselfie selfie

ProJeCt’s #GivingTuesday campaign invited Facebook and Twitter followers to post #Unselfie selfies like this one from Jeremy Clark on ProJeCt’s Facebook page.

If you live in the Easton area, there are many ways to join ProJeCt in giving back to the community. We need volunteers to help out in the food pantry, literacy center and administrative office. Most of these opportunities are during business hours, but tutors are also needed in the literacy center at night.

You can follow ProJeCt’s Twitter and Facebook accounts to learn about awareness efforts you can participate in throughout the year, such as the #Unselfie selfies for #GivingTuesday, and we also invite you to comment on our activities. ProJeCt events, including Simply Savory held the first Monday every October and the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community each spring, are also open to the public.

On the ProJeCt website, we also make it simple to get involved as a volunteer, donor or with events: Just click the Get Involved menu at the top of the home page.

ProJeCt serves more than 5,000 individuals and families each year, but we could not do it without the help and support of the many donors and volunteers who enable us to sustain our programs and services year after year. We encourage community members to join us in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community! Come out and enjoy a spring morning, learn more about ProJeCt and walk with us as we work to help people help themselves.