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CAMBRIA/SOMERSET COUNTY— Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen> One local group is trying to spread that feeling and give people hope for a positive future.

The Commission on Hope is a collaborative effort between Beginnings, Inc., Victim Services, Women’s Help Center, Cambria & Somerset County District Attorneys, Cambria County Adult Probation, Cambria County Prison, Flood City Church, and a variety of individual volunteers throughout the community. It was designed due to a gap in services for highly at-risk families and incarcerated individuals transitioning back into the community and their families.

“This program is to help strengthen our families and create stronger communities,” said Paula Eppley-Newman, Beginnings Executive Director.

Eppley-Newman said this program is a new approach started by all of the above organizations to help make a difference.

“This project combines family strengthening, mindfulness yoga and meditation, and volunteer coaching or mentoring which individually is being done, but not together for a more holistic intervention,” said Eppley-Newman.

Commission on Hope recently received a $30,000 grant through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies’ Community Initiatives Fund to support a part-time coordinator for the program.

“We see a lot of potential with this project and are pleased to have a donor that is able to provide Commission on Hope with the resources to take it to the next level,” said Angie Berzonski, Foundation Program & Communications Officer. “In the pilot year of their program, they were able to establish key relationships with the local district attorneys and probation offices, as well as established service providers. This is a program that has been found to be so necessary and so helpful that in some cases it is being court-mandated. Volunteer coaches are trained to work with the participants while incarcerated and then stick with them during their transition out of the prison system to keep them moving toward recovery, strengthening family bonds, suggesting resources, and helping in whatever way possible as the participants wait to get into a rehab setting or job training.”

“Without this funding, we could not move forward with the services needed to gather the data,” said Eppley Newman.

COH is currently taking individuals who sign up for the project. Eppley-Newman said she would like to see this project expand in the next few years.

“I see this program growing to other counties with influence on not just a county level but state and national as well. We are currently following the standards that hopefully will lead to evidence based programming, as a whole, and not just with the individual programs involved, “ she said. “Hope changes everything.”

To learn more about this program, click on Hope. For information on how to apply for a grant, email Angie Berzonski at or click on grants.




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