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An Interview with Christine Matusik-Plas, Community Impact Director at the United Way of Greater Lorain County

Posted March 29, 2021
3:39 pm

How would you describe your job?

My job focuses on assisting our Community Collaboratives to meet the goals they’ve set that will improve lives in Lorain County. Community Collaboratives consist of representatives of nonprofit agencies, businesses, community groups, and individuals that are working together around a set of common goals.

These groups serve individuals in the community while working to change the conditions that created the need for those services in the first place. My role is to help these collaboratives work together more effectively. This includes identifying gaps in services and developing projects to fill those gaps, measuring and reporting short-term and long-term results; and assuring funding needs are met. Legal Aid is a partner in the Community Collaborative called United Community Assistance Network (UCAN).

Tell us more about the UCAN Community Collaborative and your work with Legal Aid.

UCAN consists of about 10 nonprofits that provide emergency financial assistance to families in crisis in their neighborhoods. The partners have a common philosophy about how they approach providing assistance, as well as a common intake, a shared database, and a common online application. They meet frequently to share resources and talk through particularly tough cases.

The Legal Aid team provides frequent updates on legal issues occurring out in the community, so that the other UCAN partners are prepared when community members start to seek their services on that issue. At the same time, Legal Aid provides support and answers on legal questions. For example, a Legal Aid attorney might tell the UCAN team about a manufactured home park that they’ve heard has stopped paying its water bill to the municipality. Now that is an issue between the park manager and the city. But it also affects the tenants, because now they have no water service even though they’ve paid their bills. You could see how a joint approach, with legal support plus financial assistance, would lead to a better outcome.

What are the benefits of partnering with local services like Legal Aid?

The greatest benefit of this type of collaboration is that individuals receive better and faster services to resolve their crises. Also, the systems that have led

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