Blueprints has encouraged the placement of Little Free Libraries in the region, which allows people to borrow or take books contained in them, or to donate some. This photo from 2021 shows the unveiling of a Little Free Library in Greene County with, from left, Richard Burgess, a Blueprints board member; Jeff Fondelier, Blueprints’ vice president of operations; Ellen Rossi, president of the EQT Foundation; and Blair Zimmerman, a Greene County commissioner (Herald-Standard photo).
By Brad Hundt
WASHINGTON, Pa. — The four pillars of Blueprints, which calls itself a “change agency,” are the mind, the home, health and the wallet.
Blueprints assists thousands of residents of Washington and Greene counties and West Virginia through an abundance of programs that help them improve their lives and skills and attain self-sufficiency. Blueprints boosts the minds of its clients through things like digital literacy and computer classes. The organization helps them in their homes through rental assistance, credit repair and truancy prevention.
Senior community centers, behavioral health and psychological services are among the ways Blueprints helps out with the health of the people it serves, and it assists with budgeting, career development and other financial aspects of its clients lives.
“We’re an anti-poverty organization,” said Jeff Fondelier, vice president of operations for Blueprints. “As we are successful in our mission, it benefits everybody if we reduce poverty. The local economy improves, school districts improve, property values improve. The tax base is broadened. So, as we are successful, it raises everybody’s ship, so to speak.”
The nonprofit Blueprints started life as Community Action Southwest in 1965, with a mission to fight poverty. That’s still the case today. It has an annual budget of well over $30 million, and receives the lion’s share of its funding through state, federal and local grants. But there are still ways people can help out Blueprints.
First, they can donate money.
“We use fundraising dollars to gap-fill some of our programs that are not so well-funded,” Fondelier said. “So monetary donations are always nice.”
He acknowledged that there are not many volunteer opportunities available with Blueprints, but Fondelier pointed out Blueprints is the Meals on Wheels provider for Greene County, so volunteer drivers there would be “tremendously helpful.”
Blueprints also has a project, A Little Lift, a crowdfunding website that identifies participants who have encountered barriers to self-sufficiency. An example would be someone who has landed a job that requires work boots, but they do not have sufficient funds to purchase steel-toed boots, which can sometimes cost more than $100.
Donors can give $5, $10 or $20 to help the participant. The website can be found at alittlelift.org.
Fondelier also pointed out that a lot of the low-income families Blueprints helps cannot afford to purchase Christmas presents, so businesses and individuals can sponsor families at the holidays, purchasing gifts for them.
Brad Hundt is a reporter for the Herald-Standard of Uniontown, Pa. Helping the Helpers is a joint effort of the Herald-Standard and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Readers may email him at [email protected].
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