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Interfaith Human Services Wishing Well Campaign Makes a Big Impact for Local Families

by on November 27, 2019 2:00 PM


As you go about your holiday shopping in the near future, you may spot a volunteer or representative from Interfaith Human Services manning a small wishing well. These little receptacles found outside local businesses represent a big opportunity to impact some of Centre County’s most vulnerable populations both this holiday season and into 2020. 

“In Centre County, 43% of the residents are reported to not be meeting or having the means to meet their basic needs,” said Curt Knouse, Interfaith Human Services’s new executive director. “Over [16%] are living in poverty. [IHS is] really one of the agencies in the area that is here to help fill in and help people who have fallen through the cracks of other programs that are out there.”

When it comes to determining the proportion of Centre County residents who are unable to meet their basic needs, Interfaith Human Services refers to the United Way ALICE report. The ALICE report measures individuals who are asset-limited, income-constrained and employed. If a household cannot cover costs of essentials such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology and taxes, while still working, they’re considered an ALICE household. According to Centre County United Way, 27% of the county’s nearly 40,000 households are ALICE households, with 16% living in poverty, adding up to 43% of local households unable to meet basic needs.

IHS assists these struggling populations with emergency fund assistance, helping them meet their needs during personal crises or when extra costs arise, such as unexpected medical costs or excessive heating bills during the winter months. Funds raised from Interfaith Human Services’s annual wishing well campaign makes this possible. 

“Primarily, we use our wishing well campaign for our crisis management programs, our emergency financial need program…It’s not a month-to-month income, but [for when] something happens, they have some sort of crisis in their life that they need a little help to get through…that sometimes includes rental assistance, a security deposit, utility assistance, maybe someone has a new prescription that throws the budget off and they need to get help for that until they can get on a cycle,” Knouse said. “[The wishing well campaign] is really one of our two biggest fundraisers of the year and that’s its primary use.”

These types of emergency financial services assist around 300 families in Centre County per year, in addition to the other hundreds of people who benefit from the organization’s other services.

Last year, the wishing well campaign raised approximately $25,000. This year, Knouse says he hopes to see that number grow to $30,000.

“There’s a huge need,” he said, “and it’s only with these kinds of gifts that we’re able to do more for people in the community.”

IHS wishing wells can be found outside Meyer Dairy, The Corner Room and Wal-Mart on Benner Pike, Nov. 29–Dec. 23. While you will need cash in order to make a donation at one of the wishing well locations, online donations can be made to the wishing well campaign on the IHS Facebook page

If you’d prefer to make a donation toward a specific cause, such as the organization’s winter fuel bank, which helps qualifying households cover the cost of heating during the winter, you can do so on the IHS website

Volunteer opportunities are also available by calling IHS at (814) 234–7731.



Holly Riddle is a freelance food, lifestyle and entertainment writer. She can be reached at [email protected]
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