Organization lends a hand to community

Originally Published February 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 27, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Ed Seay is executive director of the Help Network in Russellville, which works to help families in the community pay bills, get job interviews and pay their rent.

For many people, bills can pile up, and sometimes a person might not know where to turn for assistance. The Help Network, a Russellville-based nonprofit organization, offers financial assistance to low-income families in the community.

The Help Network was founded in 1992.

Ed Seay, executive director of the Help Network, has been in that position since the end of 2009 and has seen the organization’s funding grow in the past two years.

In 2009, the Help Network offered $56,000 in assistance. In 2010, it increased to $59,000. In 2011, the organization offered $75,000 in assistance, and in 2012, the amount increased to $78,000, Seay said.

The Help Network offers aid to the community by assisting people with covering expenses, but the organization never pays an entire bill for a person.

If a family faces a disconnection notice on their electricity and comes in with a $100 electric bill, Seay said, the family will also be charged with a reconnection fee and an additional deposit.

“That $100 bill could become up to $200,” Seay said. “So, if they can’t pay the $100, they certainly can’t pay $200.”

The Help Network provides enough funding to cover half of the bill, so the family only has to come up with half of the original expense. In order to get assistance, a client must be in an emergency situation,

such as [facing] eviction or a power disconnection.

“We don’t want to enable people,” Seay said. “We want people to have some responsibility for the situation that they’re in, but we do want to get them through that crisis.”

In addition to assisting people with paying rent and utility bills, the Help Network offers assistance in paying for fuel, prescriptions and food.

Seay said the network gets its funding from benevolence funds of local churches — money raised to help low-income families in the community — and the River Valley United Way. The United Way gives Help Network quarterly grants to assist with funding the organization.

“Most churches have a set amount of money that they are able to use to assist families that need help,” Seay said.

The Help Network usually has about $6,000 a month with which to assist clients.

“We have about 150 requests in the first 15 days of the month,” Seay said.

A client is required to come to the Help Network’s office and fill out an application, and a photo is taken for identification.

“We ask that our clients meet one of five categories for assistance: low-income, single-parent [household], long-term unemployed, disabled or homeless,” Seay said.

The Help Network serves people in Pope, Yell, Johnson, Perry, Logan and Conway counties.

Seay said that at times it can be tough to be in the business of helping people, but he gets an opportunity to see people get out of a low point in their life.

“We see people at their lowest point a lot of times,” Seay said. “They’re disappointed, they’re upset and they’re frustrated at what’s happening.”

The Help Network has a chance to help out and make a client’s life a little better, Seay said.

One disappointment Seay said he has in his work is that the network isn’t able to help everyone.

“We do help as many as we can,” Seay said. “We help about 92 percent of everybody that makes a request.”

Since January, Seay said, the network has assisted 10 families who were homeless and are now in permanent homes because of the programs that the Help Network offers.

“It’s exciting to know that for some people, their lives are being changed, and they’re receiving the type of help that they need,” Seay said.

Help Network offers assistance from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. More information on

the Help Network can be found at www.helpnetworkinc.net.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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