The Collin County city of McKinney is preparing to expand an innovative program born out of two emergencies every resident has faced in the past year and a half.
Created at the start of COVID-19, ‘One Heart McKinney’ aimed at providing financial support and resources for residents impacted by the pandemic, those out of work, unable to pay their bills and sometimes without food on the table.
The city program then stepped up again in February 2021 in the aftermath of the major winter storm that left many without power and water for days.
Scott Elliott, One Heart McKinney’s incoming executive director, says the program’s model is about, “How can we make it more efficient for the friends and neighbors that we have in need to access the services in Mckinney? There’s no shortage of resources. I assure you, there’s no shortage of organizations that are great. But how can we make it a more dignified experience for those in need of help?”
Elliott, who is the current executive director of the non-profit Community Lifeline Center, stresses that even in McKinney there are needy families.
“A lot of folks look at McKinney and Collin County in general and say: There can’t be that much need out there,” he said. “Of all the students in McKinney I.S.D., 32-24% qualify for free or reduced lunch and if you just point to that one statistic, that’s a pretty strong statement about what the need is.”
Hoping to build on One Heart McKinney’s momentum of successfully streamlining resources across the city, the program is expanding on February 1, 2022.
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Elliott says the program will focus on food, hygiene, physical and mental health help, as well as providing access to education and jobs.
McKinney police, fire, the school district, and dozens of non-profits including Community Lifeline Center, Hope Clinic and Hugs Café are all working under one umbrella to streamline individualized help for each person in the program.
“Right now, someone who needs help may go to five different organizations in five different places and tell their story five times,” said Elliott. “Telling your story if you’re in need or you’re in crisis, I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly difficult that is, much less doing it time after time after time with an uncertain outcome.”
Participants will only have to recount their struggles once, he said.
“What we’d rather see is a common intake process across all the service organizations across the city,” said Elliott.
The program is funded privately and with city money, said McKinney Mayor George Fuller.
Fuller says he will also seek out any county or federal dollars to keep the program going.
“One Heart McKinney will in many ways be a facilitator,” he said. “We’ll be harnessing all the information, all the non-profits in the city of McKinney.”
McKinney also looked to a similar program in another North Texas City.
“There’s some great models across the country,” he said. “One of them is pretty close to us, Serve Denton, has a model that is similar to this that we will certainly learn from.
The hope is to build a stronger McKinney with residents more prepared for any future emergency.
“We hope to God it’s not another pandemic, but there will be another ‘snowmageddon,’ another grid issue,” said Elliott. “Something’s coming. How can we make our community more resilient before that comes?”
McKinney residents in need of immediate assistance can contact Scott Elliott at SCOTT@ONEHEARTMCKINNEY.COM.