While the challenges of COVID-19 continuing to hit families across the country, Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM), based in Spring Branch, has launched The Lost Loved One program to help families struggling with the loss of loved ones to the virus.

The Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund, led by United Way of Greater Houston and the Greater Houston Community Foundation, provides funding of the program from donations by the public.

MAM President and CEO Sonja Gee, explains, “One big gap that was recognized is what happens with families who really are struggling because they have actually lost somebody due to COVID.”

The Lost Loved One provides qualifying families with $3,500 to address immediate needs, including funeral expenses and assistance with living costs such as rent and utilities.

“For families facing the tragedy of a COVID related death, the impact of this bereavement fund is more than just the vital financial support it provides,” adds Gee.

So, the funds also help provide resources to address legal questions arising from a death in the family, or family grief counseling available through MAM from mental health experts and social service workers.

MAM sees the program as a way to strengthen and stabilize families during the worst of time for so many people in Houston. The mission ties into the three core pieces at the foundation of MAM’s priorities: employment services, financial education/coaching services, and mental health counseling.

Diego Hernandez, a MAM benefits advocate, meets with a client in a classroom to maintain health safety measures during the pandemic.

MAM services are available to the public in English, Spanish and Farsi.

To qualify for The Lost Loved One program, applicants must be residents of Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery or Waller counties. (More than 2,900 people have died of the coronavirus in Harris County alone).

Participants are eligible if they have experienced a loss of an immediate family member due to COVID-19 since March 1 and have a household income of less than 80% of Area Median Income as determined by the federal government.

Families who suffered a COVID-19 death many months ago may not come forward for assistance right away.

Gee explains, “We recognize that immediately after a loss is not when some people are reaching out. It may not be until three or six months down the line.”

Funding for program beneficiaries is for six months or until the allotted funds are depleted. To apply for the program or to get more information, contact MAM at 713-468-4516 extension 149 or go to www.mamhouston.org/lostlovedone

MAM also serves the community through educational services, financial assistance programs, work skills development/certifications and assistance in navigating through the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. This 501(c)3 non-profit organization receives charitable funding from various sources but the operation relies heavily on volunteers.

From its retail store and boutique to class instruction, MAM needs volunteers year round to assist with many of the services and operations.

COVID has particularly created a shortage of volunteers in the retail store (1625 Blalock Rd). For information about MAM services, or to volunteer, visit www.mamhouston.org on line.

— by Jessika Leal