Meadville Tribune

April 19, 2013

Center for Family Services to mark 150 years

Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — What is the best way to celebrate a 150-year anniversary? How about filling 150 balloons with 150 prizes and throwing a big party?

The Center for Family Services Inc. is doing just that on Saturday at the Italian Civic Club during its 13th annual Music Benefit. This year, the CFS celebrates its 150th year of aiding area families experiencing a crisis.

“What’s a party without balloons?” CFS Executive Director Linda Bennett asked. “The balloons will be $10 each, containing a prize with at least a $10 value; everyone is a winner.”

Some of the top prizes include a laptop, a 32-inch flatscreen TV, a hot air balloon ride and a 10-hour pontoon rental.

“We wanted to make the event extra special because of the anniversary,” the center’s Maria Firkaly said in regards to the hundreds of prize-filled balloons available to be popped. Each balloon is filled with a card with a number on it that corresponds to one of the 150 prizes.

The benefit features the talents of The Sofa King Cool Band, which will play crowd favorites for listening and dancing.

“The band has a big following in our area,” Firkaly said. “The guys are local and really talented; they will make sure everyone is having a good time.”

Doors open at 6:30, with the band on stage at 7. Tickets are $15 and available at the Center for Family Services, COOL 101.7 studios, George’s Jewelry and The Cutting Edge Hair Salon. The ticket also enters the holder into a drawing for a $150 gas card.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event and we hope the community comes out to celebrate with us,” Bennett said. “As far as we know, we are the oldest ongoing social service agency in Crawford County.”

In 1863, a group of Meadville women joined together to help local families experiencing financial crises. The “men folk” were away fighting the Civil War and their families were left without a wage earner. The soldier’s pay that was to be sent home arrived sporadically and infrequently. The women gathered food and clothing for the families, thus forming the Home Relief Society.

Today, the name is different, but the mission remains the same. The agency continues to fulfill the original group’s legacy by providing clothing and food.

Over the years, members of the community have stepped up to the plate, meeting the demands of their time. Services include counseling for homeowners, classes for parents and a variety of services that meet the basic needs of local families.

You can go

The 13th Annual Center for Family Services Music Benefit is Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Italian Civic Club, 869 Water St., Meadville. CFS celebrates its 150th year aiding families experiencing a crisis. Doors open at 6:30 and tickets are $15. Entertainment includes The Sofa King Cool Band.

n More information: Call 337-8450 or email

Center for Family Services history

- 1863: The Center for Family Services Inc. is a direct descendant of an organization founded by a group of women in 1863 to aid families of Civil War soldiers. It was called the Home Relief Society and aided the families of soldiers whose pay was overdue.

- 1875: Men were admitted to membership and the work was continued among the poor in Meadville.

- 1886: Sara Logan became interested in the inadequacy of the clothing of the children playing in the street and through her efforts and contributions from concerned citizens, a house was rented on Walnut Street where the needy could go and receive aid. Wood was donated and men with families could go and chop a cord of wood for their own use. Clothing and food were also distributed.

- 1894: Membership included representatives from every church and benevolent society in Meadville. In order to better express structure and purpose of the body, the name was changed to Associated Charities. A.M. Fuller was elected president, a post he held until 1911. Alvira McCoy was executive secretary until her death in 1912. Her position as director was succeeded by Mary Leberman, Edna Stafford, Florence Jackson, Shirley Park, Phyllis Feil and Linda Bennett. There have been only seven executive directors in 150 years.

- 1925: The association joined the Community Chest through the support of local churches and individuals such as Elizabeth Heidekoper and Mrs. Henry Kidder.

- 1917: With the help of City Council, Associated Charities moved to rooms on the second floor of the Market House, rent free.

- 1986: The group was incorporated as Associated Family Services Inc.

- 1991: Associated Family Services Inc. purchased the current location at 213 Center St. through the efforts of Jo Thomas, a government grant through Pa. Sen. Bob Robbins and the donations from the community.

- 1995: Associated Family Services Inc. merges with the Center for Families in Change to form the Center for Family Services Inc.