SHAMOKIN - Organizations have been invited to form a coalition on poverty in the hopes of boosting interagency collaboration in Northumberland County.

Gale Zalar, of Central Susquehanna Opportunities (CSO), said county and state agencies along with nonprofits and the local ministerium have been invited to a meeting at 9 a.m. Aug. 13 at the Northumberland County Career and Arts Center, 2 E. Arch St. Any group interested in attending need only contact Zalar for more information.

The idea is to bring multiple groups together to better share what help is available and potentially increase cooperation. A similar initiative had been organized in Montour County, Zalar said.

More than 6,000 people have sought help from the multi-county nonprofit CSO in 2013, a figure that's held steady over the past few years, according to Zalar.

There's a tendency for people to equate poverty with the unemployed, and that isn't unusual. There's another group, though: the working poor. Zalar said CSO is helping many in the latter category - people who work but struggle to meet the cost of utility bills, child care and groceries.

"A lot of our residents are working poor," Zalar said. She said she's aware of abuse of social programs like welfare and food stamps, "but there's people who absolutely need it."

Potential clients are screened and assessed. They're taught lessons on budgeting. Unnecessary expenses, such as cigarettes and exorbitant cell phone packages, are pointed out and suggested to be cut for good. Some financial assistance can be provided, but emphasis is placed on living within one's means.

In extreme cases, Zalar said some have sought help to address $6,000 or more in utilities bills. CSO does what it can to help ease the burden, but it can't handle cases like these alone. A coalition, she said, could provide more ways to help such clients, especially in providing financial assistance to the more common cases.

For more information, call Zalar at 570-644-6575, extension 136.