BCCAA Community Service programs offer help in many forms
By Joel Davis | joeld@thedailytimes
Need takes many forms.
Sometimes an elderly person has to make a hard choice between food and staying warm. Sometimes a person in need could just use a little help to help themselves.
That’s where the Blount County Community Action Agency comes in with its Community Service programs. As budgets shrink and financial challenges increase, BCCAA’s services can make a difference in the daily lives of those county residents in need.
“We don’t want them to have to choose between whether to buy medication, whether to pay the utility bill, or whether to buy food,” said Mitzi Long, director of community service programs. BCCAA offers:
• Low-income one-time home energy and weatherization assistance;
• Services to qualifying low-income households for emergency services, house repair and income tax assistance through Community Service Block Grants;
• Distribution of surplus foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
• Emergency food, shelter and utility assistance for qualifying households.
The BCCAA’s weatherization program makes energy efficiency improvements to homes to offset heating and cooling consumption. Weatherizing for the long term helps reduce utility bills. Weatherizing a home can include installing insulation, caulking windows and doors, replacing water heaters and other steps.
Many people need help with their utility bills as they try to keep warm in the winter. “We don’t have any slow periods for energy assistance,” BCCAA Executive Director David Buchanan said.
On the other end of the spectrum, the agency can help provide air conditioners or fans to the elderly during summer heat waves. Sometimes it might involve helping county residents be able to purchase enough fuel to go to work.
“We have two single fathers,” Long said. “The mothers walked out and left them with kids. We helped the with gas cards and they were able to go out and get a job and provide for their kids.”
Dentures to boots
The services don’t stop there. BCCAA has helped elderly people in need of dentures, helped get food for the hungry, and even helped someone purchase steel-toed boots for a job, which made the difference in their being able to be employed, Long said.
Long has worked for BCCAA for 23 years. What has kept her there? “The biggest reason is so I can try to help and make a difference in the lives of the clients we serve,” she said.
“I and all my staff try to make the lives of our clients easier and better by providing them the services they need, which enables them to remain self-sufficient. Also, I do really enjoy my job, the people we serve and my co-workers.”
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides assistance to low income, elderly and disabled households to offset the high cost of heating or cooling. Applications are available year round.
In order for a household to qualify, the utility assistance program requires either a cut-off notice or less than a three-day supply of home-delivered fuel and an uncontrollable circumstance. Clients must be income eligible and meet the 150 percent poverty guideline.
LIHEAP appointments for the new fiscal year will begin Oct. 1 and will be taken continuously throughout the program year until Sept. 30, 2014. In Fiscal Year 2012, BCCAA served 1,747 households through the LIHEAP program.
Block grant program
Through the Community Service Block Grant, BCCAA provides several services. Clients must meet the 125 percent federal poverty guideline. Applications are taken year round until all funding is exhausted.
Services provided under the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) in Blount County include:
• Gas cards — Through referrals from the Salvation Army, Workforce Development and other agencies, clients who are searching for employment, attending job interviews or who are employed are eligible to receive assistance in gas cards.
• Homemaker services — Eligible elderly or disabled homebound clients receive assistance with general housekeeping and errands.
• Health — Through referrals from Trinity Dental Clinic and local dentists, eligible households can receive emergency dental care and dentures.
• Emergency services — Eligible applicants receive emergency assistance with utility bills.
• Nutrition — Eligible applicants receive a Red Card used in partnership with the Blount County Food Pantry for food, assistance is provided to the Meals on Wheels Program and also assistance to commodities is provided.
• Share The Warmth — In partnership with the local utility companies and donations from the community, assistance with utility bills in the winter months is provided to eligible households.
• Designated donations — Through donations given from the community, eligible individuals receive assistance with utility deposits for households entering public housing, fans, air conditioners and a variety of other needs.
• Commodities — Through an agreement with the Department of Agriculture (USDA), BCCAA distributes surplus foods to eligible clients on a quarterly basis. Clients must meet the 150 percent federal poverty guideline.
• Home rehabilitation — BCCAA rehabilitates one to two homes per year, bringing them up to code. Eligible households pay the rehabilitation cost back over a period of years at 3 percent interest. Applicants can be buying or own their home — no mobile homes are rehabilitated.
BCCAA is located at 3509 Tuckaleechee Pike, Maryville. For more information, call 983-8411 or go to http://www.blountcaa.org