Our Programs

Inter-Church Ministries Programs — VSEA+Wilkinson+Coats

Our Programs

Mature Wheat Harvest – “©iStockphoto.com/James Pauls”


1) Voucher System for Emergency Assistance (VSEA)

Daily, pastors and church staff are approached by people asking for money for groceries, gasoline, lodging and other urgent needs of the poor, homeless and disenfranchised.  With area businesses closing monthly and with daily living costs increasing, more and mroe families are finding themselves financially unable to meet their needs.

Congregations are faced with a challenge:  to be good stewards of God’s gifts, but yet be compassionate and caring for God’s children.

In 1994, Inter-Church Ministries of Erie County developed the Voucher System for Emergency Assistance.  It aids pastors and congregations in their ministry to families with emergency needs.  Through the use of vouchers and a central database, the VSEA Program enables congregations to respond to pastoral needs and yet, be assured the recipients are not misusing the resources offered.

Congregational Participation

To be a participating congregation, a church or religious organization is asked to donate to a common pool of funds, which is used for direct client aid. The amount a congregation donates varies depending on resources and need. The congregation can draw from the pool as needed. In addition, they are asked to contribute to the administrative needs of the program.

The VSEA Program provides:

  • A joint and cooperative ministry of local congregations;
  • A means of giving aid through the use of vouchers redeemable at various local merchants;
  • A system that discourages the misuse of resources and promotes good stewardship;
  • A central clearinghouse of information;
  • 24/7 online assistance for pastors and congregations in this ministry;
  • A staff to manage the financial aspects of the program.


Individual Qualifications

To qualify for assistance an individual must:

  • Access the program through a participating congregation;
  • Have an emergency need that cannot be met by any other agency;
  • Have some form of identification;
  • Understand the limits of the program and not misuse the aid received.

In addition:

  • Households are limited to one voucher in a six-month period;
  • Households are limited up to three vouchers or $100 in a lifetime.

2) Laura Wilkinson Memorial Fund

In late 1989, a child tragically died and her family was faced with not only tremendous grief, but also the burden of funeral expenses. The Erie community, however, came to the family’s aid and the legacy of the Laura Wilkinson Memorial Fund was established.

The generosity was such that, after the expenses for the Wilkinson funeral were paid, a substantial balance remained. Inter-Church Ministries was designated the trustee of the fund which continues to assist families after a death of a child.

The Laura Wilkinson Memorial Fund provides money for funeral expenses of any child age 17 or under when the family cannot afford a proper service. ICM monitors the disbursements of the fund with set parameters. To date the fund has assisted an additional seventeen families of various racial, ethnic and faith traditions.

3) Coats for Kids

Since 1989, Inter-Church Ministries has sponsored its annual “Coats for Kids” drive.  Each year, Inter-Church Ministries (ICM) asks congregations, individuals, and organizations to collect “gently used” or new items like warm, washable coats, jackets (with hoods), snowsuits, hats, gloves, scarves, mittens, sweaters, shoes, boots and other items of clothing.  For the past several years, these items have been collected and distributed through the Erie City School District Family Center’s “The Caring Closet” at 913 Payne Avenue, Erie, PA.  There is no charge for the clothing distributed through “The Caring Closet” and it serves some our community’s most vulnerable neighbors — including refugees and the poor among us.  Volunteers are also needed.

If you, your congregation or organization would like to start collecting these items, the process is as easy as 1.2.3:

1.  Set up a collection station at your site.  Use the attached poster to promote the project.coats for kids poster

2.  Email ICM an approximate count of the coats, jackets and small items that you collect.

3.  Deliver the items to “The Family Center’s Caring Closet, 913 Payne Avenue, Erie (E. 10th and Payne) – preferably after 1 pm.  Call ahead (874-6990) to be sure there is someone there to accept your donations and to be directed where to best drop-off your items.

Thanking you in advance for your help with this “Coats for Kids” Project!  For more information, contact ICM at (814) 454-2411 or email at icm@icmeriecounty.com

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