Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Signing Off

Although the OBB Mobile Express is still on the road, we will no longer be posting regular updates of our work in order to focus on other efforts. We have enjoyed the past several years of sharing with you the everyday triumphs and struggles of working in human services, and we hope you will stay in touch! In real life, we aren't going anywhere.

Since 2006, those of us at The Ohio Benefit Bank have worked to make sure low-income Ohioans have access to the resources they need to take care of their families. Now, we have another goal: helping Ohioans sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

You can still invite the Mobile Express to your event. Here is how: 

In service,
The Mobile Express team

Friday, August 2, 2013

Neighbor to Neighbor

Recently, while at Lutheran Social Services Champion Food Pantry in Columbus, I was introduced to a great resource that the pantry was using to help supplement the benefits available through The Ohio Benefit Bank™. LSS was using the Neighbor to Neighbor program to help their clients who utilized American Electric Power (AEP) manage their utility bills.

This one-time grant provides eligible clients with up to $500 of assistance! This program is a great resource for clients whose service is in threat of termination or whose service has already been terminated. While the Home Energy Assistance Program is open, the Neighbor to Neighbor Program will assist customers whose service is off. Neighbor to Neighbor is administrated by the Dollar Energy Fund, a nonprofit organization that works with power companies to make sure that people who can’t pay their bills get help and avoid power shut-off. The fund collects money from utility customers who donate by checking a box on their utility bills.

For more information about the program, or to find out if your site is eligible to become a Neighbor to Neighbor Authorized Screening Agency, please continue to this link:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Photos From the Farm

Tyler and I recently had the opportunity to attend the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association Summer Tour and Field Day with our colleague Erin Wright. Erin sources food for the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program, which provides surplus agricultural products from Ohio farms to local foodbanks. The event was hosted at Hirsch Fruit Farm of Chillicothe and Rhoads Farm Inc. of Circleville. It was great to be able to roll up our sleeves and spend a day on the farm, meeting some of the farmers who work with our foodbanks to make sure healthy fresh food doesn’t go to waste.

Here’s just a few photos of the day:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Successful Outreach Strategies for Veterans

It can be difficult for service providers to connect to groups of people we describe as “Hard-to-Reach” populations. Recently we have been researching outreach strategies for veterans, because of the large number of veterans in need who are eligible for benefits but are not receiving them.

Many of the veterans we have interviewed feel that there is a strong social stigma against applying for benefits, especially if their peers and social circle are aware. Unfortunately, these stigmas can often lead to associating the act of asking for help with a sense of failure. Often, attempts are made to outreach to veterans through bringing them together with their fellow veterans at social events combined with benefits fairs. However, we have observed that this approach actually leaves veterans feeling uncomfortable and more hesitant to seek out information.

 Our experiences and research have highlighted two key ideas that have proven successful for outreach to veterans:

One thing that has come up time and time again in our interviews with veterans was the importance that the information comes from people they trust. The VA Rural Veterans Outreach Toolkit  recommends developing community liaisons—individuals from within the veteran’s social circle who can be recruited to advocate for the use of these programs—when planning outreach to veterans. Bringing friends and family members on board creates an environment that is more hospitable to veterans and sparks a more welcoming and accepting attitude toward benefits.

Although many younger veterans are hesitant to apply for benefits, most are extremely comfortable with Internet technology. Many young veterans become more interested in applying for benefits when they discover they can complete and submit the applications themselves online.

We believe that combining these two practices — recruiting members of the community to help spread information, and focusing on programs like Self-Serve with younger veterans — will help increase the percentage of eligible veterans who apply for benefits.

How are you connecting to veterans in your community? If you would like to share any successful strategies or tools regarding your efforts, or participate in our survey, please let us know! Email me at or leave a comment here.    

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Crisis Program Kickoff!

This Monday, July 1st, The Mobile Express will be attending The Breathing Association Summer Crisis Program Health & Energy Kickoff!  Before we head out to this great event though, we wanted to let everyone know a little information about the Summer Crisis Program.  The Summer Crisis Program is a statewide program (similar to HEAP) that allows eligible Ohioans to receive either a credit on their energy bill or in some cases a free fan or air conditioner! However there are some key differences between who is eligible for each program, for instance clients who are already enrolled in PIPP and are current with their payments do not qualify for this program.  For more information about who will qualify for the Summer Crisis Program, and what benefits they might be eligible for, please follow this link to the Department of Development’s web page.  But don’t delay, The Summer Crisis Program only accepts applicants from July 1st to August 31st, and if you are in the Columbus area on July 1st between 10:30 AM  and 1:30 PM stop on over at The Breathing Association Summer Crisis Program Health & Energy Kickoff at 1520 Old Henderson Rd Columbus OH 43220!

Monday, June 24, 2013

An Answer to All Those Healthcare Questions: Enroll America

Again and again I am running into clients looking for answers to questions and fears about the Affordable Care Act. Questions like, “Will I be able to get Medicaid then?” or “How could I possibly afford going to the doctor?” Fears like, “Am I gonna get in trouble if I don’t pay for insurance?”

My response?... I’m not 100 percent sure exactly what will happen when the change occurs but I’m confident it will be a change for the better.  When people are healthy they are able to make choices that lead to success.

In the current political environment it can be near impossible to sift through each and every message that is thrown at us through the media and find truth. With so much rhetoric out there how can we find good information to pass to our clients? Fortunately, there’s an organization called Enroll America.

Enroll America’s website hosts a ton of awesome resources from informational outreach maps to recorded webinars.  One of the easiest and most effective ways I've found to educate clients about this topic is to share with them this video from Enroll America:

The video does a great job at highlighting what to expect when the new law fully kicks in and it doesn't allow for me to pass false information along to my clients.  If you too are receiving questions from clients about the Affordable Care Act give it a try! Simply show them this video or point them towards the Enroll America website.

As we move closer to 2014 we’ll learn more about the plans, the pricing, and other specific information so stay tuned for more. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Stand Down for veterans: CACEHR Knows How to Reach Out!

Over the past few weeks The Ohio Benefit Bank Mobile Express has had the opportunity to work with one of our favorite partners, the Community Action Commission of Erie, Huron, and Richland Counties (CACEHR). Recently CACEHR has organized several “Stand Down” resource fairs for homeless veterans in both Huron and Richland Counties.

Both Richland and Huron County chapters worked extremely hard to put together these events to provide an opportunity for their clients to become connected to a large number of service providers and employers. These events were an opportunity for their organization to help veterans in need, but also to show respect and appreciation for their service. 

CACEHR's Richland County chapter in particular used several strategies to advertise this event to both local social service providers and to clients, but one of their most effective was to reach out and enlist the aid of key community figures. According to the Rural Veterans Outreach Toolkit, a package created by the Veterans Rural Health Resource Center, one of the most effective ways to generate interest in veterans and other hard-to-reach populations is to be associated with influential and trusted members of the local area. It is also an effective strategy to help with the recruitment of other partners. In this case, CACEHR reached out to Mansfield City Mayor Timothy L. Theaker who became one of the event’s most vocal supporters. In a short speech addressed to the veterans being served at the event, Mayor Theaker expressed his gratitude towards the service and sacrifices of the veterans in his community, and expressed a strong desire to help those who had served get back on their feet.

Thanks to CACEHR a great number of veterans in multiple counties were able to connect to some fantastic resources, and we will look forward to their next event!