The Mon Valley Initiative (MVI) is dedicated to helping families and individuals achieve stability and economic security, primarily by focusing on supporting unemployed and under-employed clients in job preparation, job search, financial coaching and education. At any time, these services are in great demand and support the overall community by increasing residents’ purchasing power and stabilizing the tax base. In today’s world of the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantine and unprecedented unemployment rates, MVI’s services are truly lifesaving.
When MVI leadership came together to adjust their service delivery model to continue to meet the needs of the community during the COVID-19 crisis, they immediately thought about videos and social media. Quickly producing a video with a simple and compelling message of “We’re still here for you,” MVI provided a comforting voice to the Mon Valley community. They posted the video on social media channels and saw the views and shares skyrocket – 12,657 people actually watched the video on Twitter and Facebook, making it the most popular MVI-created content to date!
The agency also took advantage of more foot traffic in the area, due to stay-at-home orders, and purchased new signage for the building with an aim to alert new clients that they could still reach staff by phone. Additional changes have included helping clients without computer access at home to complete more applications and forms, such as applying for benefits and following up on stimulus funds, by spending much more time on the phone.
Recently, MVI created a video version of its orientation, employment coaching and financial coaching curricula, on an invitation-only YouTube channel. This was accomplished using on-line curriculum segments available to designated Financial Opportunity Centers, with support from Neighborhood Allies and the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC). The new service format will allow clients to continue to move forward in their goals and be ready for employment opportunities when pandemic restrictions are reduced.
As MVI continues to adapt to meet clients’ needs, leadership is exploring how to open the offices safely. As Laura Zinski, Chief Executive Officer, stated, “We are looking at protocols and writing new regulations for business. We are not in a hurry; this is not a race we need to win. If people can access [us] online or on the phone, we do not need to put them at risk [with face-to-face interactions].” But in the meantime, the MVI team is busy continuing to support Mon Valley residents and innovating to meet the community’s needs.