Helping the helpers: Blount County Community Action Agency looks for community support for services
By Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
For decades, county residents in need have turned to the Blount County Community Action Agency for help. Now it needs yours.
After a year on the job, Executive Director David Buchanan said what keeps him up at night is wondering where to find the money to serve those in need as federal contributions dwindle.
“We know for sure that federal funding is going to decrease,” he said.
BCCAA continues to fight the good fight, though — working hard to get the most out of its existing budget. “We’ve tried to find better ways to spend our money, streamlined staff, increased the volunteer force and increased private donations,” Buchanan said. “It’s more about our management of the money and what has really made a difference is United Way and Second Harvest. Our relationship with Second Harvest is what has enabled us to make better use of less money.”
Existing funds can only stretch so far as the magnitude of the needs of the aged and less-fortunate in the community remain to be addressed.
“There is always more than we can do,” Buchanan said. “In Blount County, there are more than 2,300 people eligible, the people who are in danger of food insecurity, and we’re reaching less than 10 percent. The need is always there for additional resources to serve those people.
“We need undesignated funds from the Blount County community to help us reach more of those in need. We are always looking for additional revenue streams that will enable us to reach a greater number of seniors, disabled and low-income families in Blount County with our services.”
Blount County’s senior population grew more than 133 percent from 2009 to 2012 alone. Funding to provide services to Blount seniors has remained the same while the costs of food, transportation and other support needs are growing, according to the agency.
Buchanan said the agency would love to talk to any local corporations or businesses “that would be interested in investing to help us provide service to our most vulnerable citizens.”
The BCCAA budget has shrunk from $3.7 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to about $2 million currently.
From FY2011 until the present, total federal funding for BCCAA programs has fallen by $483,300 from $1.7 million to $1.2 million. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program has taken the brunt — losing $447,107 in funding.
Salaries and benefits ($592,436) make up about 28 percent of the agency’s slightly more than $2 million budget. Administrative salaries are:
• David Buchanan, Executive Director, $57,750
• Laura Maclin, Director of Accounting and Operations, $55,200
• Mitzi Long, Director of Community Services, $42,500
• Joani Shaver, Director of the Office on Aging, $37,500
• Lynnda Manville, Director of Senior Nutrition, $37,500
Due to funding constraints, BCCAA is able to meet only a fraction of the significant requests for services by Blount County seniors, Buchanan said.
Even as the senior population has grown in Blount County by more than 1.5 percent from 2009 to 2012 alone, funding to provide services to Blount seniors has remained the same while the costs of food, transportation and other support needs are growing.
260 meals a day
The BCCAA Senior Nutrition Program serves about 260 meals a day. It provides a midday meal Monday through Friday to Blount County residents 60 years or older who are homebound and continues to expand. “We are now in Happy Valley, which has not had any services ever as far as we are aware of,” Buchanan said.
In FY2012, The BCCAA Senior Nutrition Program served 68,745 meals and provided 875 bags of groceries. The BCCAA Meal on Wheels program has 20 home-delivered meal routes serving 375 clients daily and four congregate meal sites. The program serves homebound people age 60 and older.
The needs don’t stop with food. Some seniors can’t pay their utility bills during the cold winter months. There are single parents who can’t afford the gas needed to travel to jobs.
“Most of the community does not realize the depths of poverty that are in their midst,” said Joani Shaver, program coordinator for the BCCAA Office on Agency.
The agency continues to need volunteers to deliver meals to the homebound, either on a scheduled route, emergency backup basis, or to cover volunteers on vacation.
Others services provided by BCCAA include:
• Office on Aging, offering in-home services as well as information and referral to people age 60 and older;
• 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 and Shelter Program, which makes grants available to BCCAA for emergency 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.
BCCAA is located at 3509 Tuckaleechee Pike, Maryville. For more information, call 983-8411 or go to http://www.blountcaa.org