Pathlights, which has been helping adults 60 and older and people with disabilities for nearly 50 years, has expanded its Financial Stability Program, which helps residents of Palos, Lemont, Orland, Worth and Stickney counties apply for benefits.
This free service helps residents find energy assistance, transportation, food and savings on revenue, property tax, health insurance, and cell or internet service. It has been in greater need with rising prices.
Barbara, a customer who lives in Alsip, said the nonprofit means the world to her, especially given rising costs for food, utilities and medicine.
“Without them, I wouldn’t know what to do for sure,” she said. “They are unbelievable. They are fantastic.”
Barbara, who is in her 80s, said Pathlights assistance in getting good health coverage is most helpful, along with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, or SNAP.
“The main thing is my prescriptions,” she said. “This is too expensive.”
She knows firsthand how difficult it can be to ask for help.
“I have lived in Alsip for many years and the first time I went to Pathlights I saw some ladies who were volunteers and I thought they were looking at me,” she recalled. “I felt a little embarrassed for a moment, and then I thought, ‘Why? They are not living my life. I have to do what I need to do to make my life comfortable. I’m not asking for extras or things I don’t need.”
Barbara said she used to go to church with the volunteers, and they thought she was fine even though she was in need.
“It happens, but you have to get over the embarrassment and move on,” she said. “If you urgently need medical coverage or food stamps or anything else – your utilities – don’t hesitate to contact them to see what they have to say.”
She said the manager was wonderful and would always come back to her or have someone else do it.
“They were very kind, helpful and friendly,” she said. “I want to commend the volunteers who work there and the Pathlights staff. They are looking out for your best welfare.”
Another client helped by Pathlights is Rita, 82, who lives in Orland Park with her roommate, Steve, 92. She gets help with utility bills, and Steve gets assistance with SNAP.
“I never in my life thought we would have these needs, but it happened,” Rita shared, adding that a 2019 hospitalization followed by three weeks in a nursing home changed her circumstances. “They are very helpful in many ways. They are cool.”
She said she doesn’t mind getting help from someone else, like her roommate, “but I’m embarrassed myself.” She tells people about the assistance Pathlights provides, but doesn’t say she receives services.
“A man was saying he wouldn’t have anywhere to live, and I told him to go to Pathlights and see if they can help him,” she said. “I recommend them because they helped a lot. They don’t look down on you. They are useful. They want to help you.”
Barbara and Rita are among the 1,800 people that Pathlights has completed enrollment for this year. New CEO Elaine Grande said nearly 2,800 people have contacted Pathights for advice and guidance on financial and benefits issues.
Grande said it is critical to help as many people as possible regain financial stability, and the Pathway to Financial Stability Program works on cost-saving programs to help clients reduce their overhead, helping them to increase their income. monthly and stay in their homes and communities.
“This often complex process has become increasingly challenging for some as most requests are now completed online,” she said. “While the work has always been done, Pathlights has developed and improved the program over the years.”
Thanks to what she called generous financial support from Lemont Township, Northwestern Medicine, and the Henrietta Lange Burk Foundation, the Pathway to Financial Stability Program expanded. It is also funded by federal money and other interested partners, as well as AgeOptions and the Area Agency on Aging, which supports it through Title 3 Older American Act funds.
Companies or individuals wishing to contribute to the program can click the Donate tab on www.pathlights.org, contact the organization or send a check with a note to the Pathlight office in Palos Heights.
“Our experts help you learn, assess, assess eligibility and enroll in cost-saving programs,” said Grande. “They support customers throughout the process, advising them on the correct documentation and then sending the order to the customer.”
She said customers who meet specific criteria can sometimes get direct support.
“Occasionally, Pathlights may have funds available to help with specific needs,” she explained. “We are currently able to help with overdue utility, rent and mortgage bills.”
The Illinois Department of Aging has also provided senior emergency service funds, which can help eligible clients with some necessary expenses, such as nutritional needs, personal hygiene needs and emergency assistance, Grande said.
She said the economy has driven more people to turn to the program.
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“We’ve had an increase in the number of phone calls to request evaluation for eligibility for all benefits,” she said. “Many customers who are already registered are calling to find out about other possible assistance, as many people are having difficulties.”
Most people are asking for help with rent and mortgage payments.
“That could be because it’s their biggest expense,” she said. “We see that rents are increasing significantly, and this can be a challenge for those with fixed incomes.”
Trained staff gather information from potential clients about their financial situation and assess their eligibility for available programs, providing detailed lists of documents required for application. Employees submit applications as soon as documents are received and provide follow-up to ensure the benefit is received. The team also helps with any appeals process. Information is available at 708-361-0219 or www.pathlights.org.
She said the organization wants to raise awareness because many people are not aware of these benefits. Some benefits are tied to income and assets, but some, like Medicare Prescription Plan D, which opens for enrollment from October 15 to December 7, are not.
“Sometimes there are shows that people don’t know about and we want to make sure we’re reaching as many people as possible,” she said. “I’m sure there are people out there who could be saving money. Who doesn’t need that?”
Melinda Moore is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.