Medical expenses

Pilot program aims to help with unexpected expenses

SPRINGFIELD — One in three American households cannot sustain an unexpected $400 expense, according to the Federal Reserve.

But now three Springfield social-service organizations — New North Citizens’ Council, Way Finders and United Way of Pioneer Valley — can help, thanks to online charitable giving platform NeighborShare and the MassMutual Foundation in a six-month pilot project announced last week.

A heater breaks, the car needs a repair, a family has to move apartments and has to provide first-and-last month’s rent with a security deposit.

“Our clients are mostly very low income,” said Jennifer Kinsman, director of community impact for United Way of Pioneer Valley. “They don’t have money like that lying around. ”There isn’t another source for things like that.”

She said United Way often learns of these acute needs through food pantries or schools, common points of contact for families.

NeighborShare partners with trusted nonprofits — like United Way, New North Citizens’ Council and Way Finders — and those groups validate the needs and help NeighborShare post profiles on its online platform, according to a FAQ.

Anyone can browse and its Adopt-Your-Backyard and choose a profile and donate knowing a bit of the backstory from the family in need but with the assurance that a trusted organization vetted that backstory.

Donors can then choose a profile and donate.

MassMutual Foundation, with $75,000, is bringing a pilot of NeighborShare’s Adopt-Your-Backyard campaign to Springfield. The MassMutual money will backstop up to eight emergency needs per month per organization — up to $400 per need — covering cases that aren’t met via neighbor-to-neighbor donations for the duration of the pilot, according to MassMutual spokeswoman Mia Sanoja.

Profiles are already up on the site identified as being from Springfield include “Amy,” a single mom who needs help with medical bills, and “Terry,” who needs money to help with transportation, bill and food.

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