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Challenging times bring opportunity

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Chautauqua County residents have struggled with the uncertainty of when our region could reopen, dealing with record high unemployment numbers around 15.5%, a severe reduction in tourism dollars to the area, and housing instability due to people not being able to pay rent or their mortgages due to financial uncertainty. But Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation & Improvement Corporation (CHRIC) is ensuring that vital resources still get to the people who rely on them daily.

During times of crisis, we must reassess our goals and strategies and also stay flexible and pivot quickly as needed to reach them. Chautauqua County residents, now more than ever, anticipate an increased need for homeownership education and counseling, budget and credit counseling, and ensuring homeowners can receive assistance to make necessary repairs to their homes. That’s why CHRIC is moving all in-person classes to a virtual environment, acquiring the necessary resources to upgrade our intake process to assist more individuals and families, and securing critical grant funds to improve housing stock in communities like Ellington, Silver Creek, and Westfield for the next few years.

To create long-lasting change in Chautauqua County, we also need to work together. NeighborWorks Week is one illustration of a way to work together. When we work together, we listen to others’ input and can create a stronger product than if we worked alone.

During NeighborWorks Week that begins today, CHRIC and other NeighborWorks organizations across the country highlight neighborhood change and awareness and host a number of events that educate, train and inform.

Additionally, during NeighborWorks Week and throughout the year, CHRIC and other NeighborWorks organizations build and maintain relationships with state and local partners to raise funds and create opportunities. These critical collaborations and partnerships are key to problem-solving during periods of crisis and beyond.

The NeighborWorks network is committed to improving people’s lives and strengthening communities. CHRIC, a NeighborWorks network member, is helping residents thrive in Chautauqua County, ensuring that individuals are provided with essential services that create a clear pathway to economic opportunity. CHRIC is partnering with municipalities to improve housing stock and remove that burden from economically distressed residents throughout the county. In addition, our Homeownership program can serve those who wish to purchase a home or improve their understanding of the process in a virtual environment, and reduce the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.

During these challenging and constantly changing times, nonprofits are vital to getting tools and resources to the people who need them most, including services that are designed to help protect the most vulnerable. We can transform Chautauqua County into a future place of opportunity and economic growth if we leverage our resources and talents now.

Josh Freifeld is executive director of the Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation.

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