YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s been 50 years of helping people in the Mahoning Valley for this Youngstown agency.
“It is amazing. It is amazing that this agency started as a drug info line to where it is today,” said Vince Brancaccio, CEO of Help Network of Northeast Ohio.
The Help Network of Northeast Ohio has adapted to the Valley’s needs since 1971.
You may remember them as the Help Hotline, but after adding additional services like homeless outreach, housing and food assistance and mental health services, they re-branded to Help Network a few years ago.
Brancaccio says the organization continues evolving to needs they see in the community.
“Over the years, if we as an agency saw a program out there that maybe could benefit from being under the umbrella of our agency, we would take that on,” he said.
The organization was started as an alcohol and drug helpline on the weekends.
The latest change the Help Network has made is adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused it to close its community centers and move some services to virtual platforms
“We now are spending a lot more time with people just talking to them because I think the biggest thing we need to provide is hope,” Brancaccio said.
He says they also received a 200% increase in calls about food assistance after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, amounting to about 10,000 calls last year.
They partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank and other organizations, partnerships Brancaccio says have led to a strong 50 years of service.
“It’s amazing that this agency has grown over the years like it has. You know, it’s about that mission of making sure that people get the help they need and that we continue looking at those resources, you know, in our Valley and in our communities,” Brancaccio said.
He says the Help Network has another new service coming right around the corner in March.
It’s called the Family Success Network and will help families on the verge of a child welfare referral.