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Community Lifeline Center gains space, service capabilities
Chris Beattie/Staff photo - A larger, more comfortable waiting room is one addition to Community Lifeline Center's new offices that opened Jan. 2. The center, which helps residents in crisis get back to self-sufficiency through monetary assistance and counseling, now has space for expanded, more private services.
Self-sufficiency is Community Lifeline Center's objective for clients.
Now, after a recent move to bigger and better facilities, its efforts toward that are twice as sufficient.
"Streamlined processes are already making the intake and evaluation process faster," said Christine Hockin-Boyd, CLC executive director. "We're still in the midst of unpacking, so there is more to come, but, as of right now, we are moving clients faster. And, given the recent occasional rain and cold, our larger lobby is allowing clients to wait inside."
The CLC is now divided into two offices: a 1,200-square-foot main office at 1601 W. University Dr., Suite B, and about an equal-sized nearby executive office and computer lab off Waddill Street. Together, that's twice the space the previous office near downtown McKinney offered.
The center serves Collin County residents in crisis by guiding them back to independence via funds for housing, utilities emergency shelter and medical and dental services. It offers life- and job-skill education related to computer technology, household budgeting and parenting. Appropriate support for each client is determined from a personal interview with a case manager, who then develops a Client Self Sufficiency Plan.
Particularly through the economic downturn, the need has been there, constantly knocking on the door of a previously cramped ability to answer.
"Community Lifeline Center served over 2,000 people in 2012," said Bill Williams, marketing co-chair and secretary of the CLC board of directors. "Demand for assistance has nearly trebled over the past few years."
An open, comfortable waiting room resembling an up-scale doctor's office now greets clients - compared to the short, chair-spared room that sometimes forced clients to wait outside, Williams said. Other additions include a full kitchen renovated from a dental operating room by Home Depot, as well as a private client application room equipped with computers, two separate case manager offices and extensive donation space.
The application room features work stations where clients can complete required forms online, reducing time-consuming administrative work for case managers, Williams said. And a training classroom can continuously hold all of the center's career, financial and life counseling.
"We moved so that we could grow," said Jaymie Pedigo, CLC development director. "We have expanded some services just in the fact we're able to do things we couldn't before."
Clinical Director Eliska Counce can now accommodate four interns who offer one-on-one counseling and family therapy sessions as part of CLC's Mental Health Initiative. Both case managers can see a client at once, instead of alternates as it was at the previous office - essentially doubling their caseload and privacy.
"In our former space, with case workers sharing office space, very private stories were told in very public surroundings," Hockin-Boyd said. "Explaining your need for help is tough enough without having to do it publicly."
Of course, more space and resources means higher costs, but Hockin-Boyd said the new buildings are "only slightly more expensive," which allows CLC to continue to allocate almost 90 cents of every dollar toward families in need. One of CLC's largest spending hikes will be phone expenses, because the two locations are integrated under a VOIP system. But even that has an upside, she said, because clients can now leave a private message for a counselor or case manager and staff can check the message off-site.
Several area businesses donated all of the furniture, and Leadership McKinney adopted CLC as its recent Make a Difference Day project to move in the new pieces.
"We were fortunate to have very supportive landlords in both the old and new space, and were blessed by so many acts of generosity in helping us get to this new space," Hockin-Boyd said.
Immediate effects haven't been as obvious, Pedigo said, only because the prime client visit time - the first of the month - was likely overshadowed by the New Year's holiday and snowy weather. At the former office, people were turned away for much of December, and clients had a two to three week waiting period as early as Thanksgiving, she said.
Through the expansion, CLC hopes to launch a totally customized client management system that will allow prospective clients to apply for assistance and provide documentation electronically, from any computer. Williams said this provides more security for clients who aren't then carting their private information to CLC offices.
Service expansion and continued development of its Veterans Coalition are ongoing aspirations, and CLC is exploring other direct-aid options like food and retail that the larger space would enable.
Gadgets and floor space aside, the center retains the same basic mission - just more sufficiently than ever before.
"Our basic goals remain: to help area individuals and families manage unexpected emergencies and guide them back to self-sufficiency," Hockin-Boyd said. "Get them back on their feet."
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