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Community Actions does more than pay electric bills

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By Shannon Brock

Over the past two years when Troy Roberts has introduced himself as executive director of Blue Grass Community Action Partnership, people have responded in one of two ways.
“They either say, ‘who?’ because they aren’t familiar with us, or they say, ‘Oh, you all pay electric bills,’” Roberts said.
While the partnership does have programs to help those in need pay their electric bills, Roberts hopes to spread the word about its other programs, too.
The partnership has a coverage area of nine counties, including Anderson.
The local office is located at 117 1/2 Hilltop Drive, and community developer Becky Stratton and program assistant Wilanna Dixon help hundreds of Anderson Countians each year.
Blue Grass Community Action is the umbrella under which many well-known community programs fall, sometimes people just don’t make that connection, Roberts said.
The partnership operates several programs to assist low-income families as well as the Anderson County Senior Citizens Center, the Anderson County Adult Day program, the Senior Companion Program, Anderson County Head Start and Day Care, a weatherization program and the Bluegrass Ultra-Transit Service (BUS).

More than just electric bills
The partnership is known as “the place that pays electric bills” for a reason. That reason is its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, administered by the local community developer’s office.
Last year, between November and December, the Anderson County office helped 224 people through its subsidy program, which covers a part of the electric bill, according to Stratton.
Between January and March of this year, the local office helped 553 people through its crisis program, which covers electric bills during the coldest winter months, Stratton said.
Between Nov. 1, when the program started back, and Wednesday afternoon, the local office had already helped 88 households with $12,244 in heating assistance.
So the partnership comes by its reputation for a good reason.
“But we do more than pay electric bills,” Roberts, the executive director, said.
Anderson County has a “self sufficiency program” that “focuses on families or individuals who show a sincere desire to become self-sufficient, but lack the financial and emotional support to do so,” according to information Roberts provided.
Stratton shared a story of a man who lost his job one day, and came to her office the next.
“He didn’t want unemployment,” she said. “He wanted another job.”
As it happened, Dixon, the program assistant, had just spoken with a company looking for an employee.
Stratton said she talked to the man a month later and he’d been working for that company ever since her office had got them in touch.
“Not only did he still have a job, but he’d gotten his brother one, too,” she said.
“Obviously, it doesn’t always work out that way, but we want to help people become self-sufficient.”
With the downturn in the economy, the local office has seen a different demographic that needs help, Dixon said.
Citizens in their 50s through 80s are asking for assistance that they haven’t needed before, she said.
In a typical week, around 150 people will request assistance through the LIHEAP program, and on average 25 others will request food vouchers for Open Hands Food Pantry, Stratton said.
The Senior Citizens Center serves about 320 individuals each month and the Adult Day Program has 15 clients.
There are 37 children enrolled in Head Start and 54 children that attend day care.
In the past year, 27 homes in Anderson County have been weatherized with $77,000 of repairs to low-income clients’ homes. Crews will return to Anderson County to weatherize homes after the first of the year, Roberts said.
Also in the last year, the BUS has performed 11,999 one-way trips for Anderson Countians, he said.

Get help or give it
The best way to request assistance or see if you qualify is to contact the local office, Stratton said.
She or Dixon can be reached by calling 502-839-7102.
The community developer and program assistant aim to be the point of contact for the community, Stratton said.
“Sometimes, we might be not be able to help, but we can put you in touch with someone who can,” she said.
The local partnership office works with churches and other community organizations to alleviate crisis wherever and whenever possible, Roberts said.
Roberts said the partnership is “not a bottomless pit of money,” and a lot of credit goes to local organizations who donate their time, money and services to help those who need it.
Donations are appreciated and funds can be earmarked for specific counties or specific programs within those counties, Roberts said. It’s as simple as specifying where the funds should go on the memo line of a check, he said.
For more information on any of these programs or others offered by the Blue Grass Community Action Partnership, call 502-839-7102 or visit www.bluegrasscommunityaction.org.

E-mail Shannon Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.