Monday, June 20, 2016

Community Life Network offers Columbia an array of services

Jamie Quinn is here to help you.

Do you need help with just a few things to get your life back on track? If so, Jamie Quinn wants you to know help is available through Community Life Network at 336 Locust Street in Columbia.

Quinn is the executive director of CLN, a facility with an array of services available to the public.

Community Life Network at 336 Locust Street offers many services to residents.

CLN is a starting point for referring people to the proper agencies that can provide the help they need. It is a local, rather than national, organization that primarily serves borough residents. “We want to make sure that the community is aware that we are not some national organization or tied to anyone else," Quinn explains.

The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, and is operated by Quinn and a part-time staffer. On average, 10-15 people a day use the facility.

CLN is a nonprofit but does not take any administrative fees; most nonprofits take a standard five percent.

At the Columbia-based office, an individual can get assistance with welfare applications, and immigration and school paperwork. Basic office services such as copying, faxing, scanning, and access to telephones are also available. In addition, the office offers clients help with computers. “We have a computer room where they’re able to use a computer and do that all on their own," Quinn says. "But if they don’t have those skills, we’ll help them.” And for people with transportation issues, bus passes are provided in limited quantities.

Services include access to computers and copiers.

CLN is a United Way Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program site offering free tax prep for anyone making under $62,000 a year, for which the facility offers space. Volunteers prepared about 300 tax returns this year. Volunteers are trained by the IRS and are recertified every year.

Counseling services are also provided through Pressley Ridge. The organization accepts Medical Assistance, Highmark Blue Shield and other types of medical insurance. Individuals without insurance might also qualify for services. The facility does not provide drug and alcohol counseling, however, due to different licensing requirements.

CLN also operates “Power Packs,” a weekend feeding program. Two volunteers handle the day-to-day tasks, making sure food is there, getting it packed, and getting it to families. About 35 other volunteers also help pack and distribute food. CLN handles the financial aspects, including some of the fundraising, and yearly letters to business. Over 600 people per week are provided food (140 or so families), from youths to seniors and households. 100% of proceeds donated goes directly to the program; no other fees are deducted.

In addition, CLN, along with the Columbia Middletown Elks, runs the “Fill the Bus” campaign to collect school supplies. CLN also handles fiduciary responsibilities and coordination for the program.

CLN also has a fire fund that can be used after the Salvation Army and Red Cross take care of initial losses from a house fire. There is also a youth-based fund.

CLN has started the Cherry Street Guest Home "repair and maintenance account" for that facility. The home faced the threat of a shutdown two years ago. At that time, the Department of Public Welfare had found serious violations during an inspection. If facility had closed, the 30 residents, mostly seniors, would have been displaced and sent to various facilities anywhere in the state with an opening. Mayor Leo Lutz, State Representative Dave Hickernell and others petitioned the state to prevent that shutdown. The Columbia Health Care Foundation and others provided funding for repairs, and CLN created the repair/maintenance account to authorize all work that gets done. At this point, all goals have been met: flooring, carpets, beds, chairs, tables, kitchen equipment, exterior features, washers and dryers. A board was recently formed that will purchase property as a non profit.

CLN receives no state funding, but is supported by the Columbia Health Care Foundation and grants. Columbia Borough also donates $5,000 a year. Currently, there is a grant request out to Wells Fargo for an adult career and development training program, and a request to Lancaster General Hospital for funding for the Lancaster Literacy Council to teach GED and ESL classes, since Columbia has no such classes anymore. About 20% of borough residents over 26 don't have a high school diploma.

The organization started over 10 years ago with Jeff Helm, Melissa Glenn and others looking at the needs of borough residents. They wanted a stand-alone entity that works for the borough but is apart from government or churches and encompasses several organizations. Current board members include Mayor Lutz, Columbia Borough Police Chief Jack Brommer, Jeff Helm, and Carol Arena.

CLN was previously located in the parsonage of the Columbia United Methodist Church at 510 Walnut Street for most of its tenure. Before that it was at Twin Rose LG outpatient wing for a year or two.  

 Offices at Community Life Network

Meeting area

The Building:
The facility, which moved to its present location this past February, is owned by Don Murphy, of Cimarron Properties. The building formerly had two floors, and at various times was a bowling alley, a restaurant, and most recently Mifflin Press.

After discussing CLN’s needs with Quinn, Murphy purchased the building in Feb 2015, and started renovations in August. CLN signed a sublease, and architect Doug Phillips worked with Quinn on the building layout. With 6,000 square feet currently available, CLN has the option to sublease to social service agencies and nonprofits to generate revenue for overhead costs.


700 different individuals have come into the office during the past three years, and overall office visits total 1200-2000 a year. CLN has seen 400 different individuals a year who need food, clothing, shelter, and financial resources.

Looking to the future, CLN has plans for a logo, signage, website, and other social media in the near future and has filed a "Doing Business As" with the state so it can be known as Columbia Life Network to inform residents that it is local.

“Columbia is such a great place," Quinn says. "It’s such a nice, small, close-knit community that unfortunately does have a lot of need. But one of the things that’s really great about it being small and close-knit is the fact that when we start seeing changes, they’re going to be actual changes. This is a great cosmic system that we have here and it's got so much potential.”


  1. Kudos and congratulations!!!! It's awesome to see such dedication to bettering those wo need help and doing it all locally. Good luck with everything. May God bless you and this venture!

  2. Thanks for helping our neighbors.

  3. Yes!! This is something good and productive. Helping your neighbor is the right thing to do! Thanks for this service. A hand up!!!

  4. A great group helping to better the lives of Columbia residents. Also, a great article about Columbia in the Lancaster County magazine.Srticle is very positive.

  5. this is awesome good news! and a huge thank you to Don and Becky Murphy. Thank you. There are a lot of people who appreciate what you are doing!