The United Way Effingham Service Center is offering a program to assist people who need a birth certificate or Georgia photo ID.
Latacia Avila, the assistant director of Social Apostolate of Savannah, is available every Wednesday from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. at the service center at 711 Zitterour Rd. in Rincon.
The Social Apostolate will help Effingham County residents obtain valid Georgia photo IDs and birth certificates from any of the 50 states, U.S. territories or through the U.S. State Department for those born outside the U.S. to American citizens. Clients need a referral from the agency requiring the birth certificate.
Clients may call (912) 233-1877 to make an appointment or visit as walk-ins. All services are free.
“We consider ourselves as the first rung of the ladder for many folks,” Avila said. “People arrive at our doorstep feeling frustrated and hopeless. So, to see someone go from being homeless with no valid ID to working a full-time job with benefits definitely gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I tell clients all the time that they do the hard work. I’m merely their support system.”
Avila explained that some people who turn to Social Apostolate for assistance find themselves in a catch-22 situation — they are not able to obtain a Georgia ID without a birth certificate, but the vital records department requires a valid ID before it will release the birth certificate. She also has seen an increase in the number of elderly who have not been able to renew their driver’s license because they have no birth certificate on file with the state.
“The bottom line is that everyone must have a valid ID in order to work,” Avila said. “Without an ID, not only can an individual not find employment, but due to the increase in identity theft combined with new state and federal regulations, they cannot even receive health care, enroll their children in school, obtain affordable housing or access public benefits that may be needed while they try to get back on their feet.”
With United Way’s financial support, Social Apostolate of Savannah helped 822 people obtain their birth certificate and/or Georgia ID last year, according to United Way Effingham Area Director Bonnie Dixon.
Established by the Catholic Diocese of Savannah in 1968, Social Apostolate began simply by hanging sandwiches out of a window for people in need. At that time, they were the only group serving the poor in the downtown area.
The organization serves anyone regardless of their religion. In fact, 98 percent of their clientele is not Catholic. Their mission is to be a witness to the biblical values of charity and justice by caring for and empowering the poor, the homeless, the disabled and the “at risk” of society.
Social Apostolate established its birth certificate/Georgia ID program in 2003. Last month, it was expanded to include Effingham County.