Non-profit Cumberland Community Action Program Inc., known locally for its food distribution and home weatherization efforts, has sought for the past year and half to establish a more comprehensive self-sufficiency outreach in Sampson County. They’ve done just that, and with approval from the state, CCAP anti-poverty efforts will be coming to the county starting this fall.
CCAP recently announced that it will be adding to the services the agency currently delivers to low-income residents of Sampson, thanks to its designation by Gov. Beverly Perdue as the agency responsible for delivering Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) anti-poverty services in this county.
CSBG funds are specifically designated to assist individuals and families enhance their skills and rise out of poverty. The selection as the conduit for those federal funds means that CCAP’s job readiness training, education attainment and life-skills coaching in Sampson can be built upon and expanded. CCAP has 47 years in administering anti-poverty programs, including more than 30 years of CSBG services in its namesake Cumberland County.
CCAP has branded its CSBG services as ASPIRE Self-Sufficiency, and it is now bringing those services to Sampson.
Cynthia Wilson, chief executive officer for CCAP, updated the Sampson County Board of Commissioners during a recent meeting.
“The goal is for folks who participate in the program to go through it over the course of two years,” Wilson said. “Through that two years, at the end they really are economically self-sufficient. By that, they have a job, they no longer need food stamps. They have climbed that economic ladder, hopefully to middle class, so they can pay their bills and not have to depend on any sort of public assistance.”
She said it is a “step by step process.”
“This is something that has been in the works for more than 18 months,” said Wilson. “We have family and friends in Sampson County that have supported this piece of work.”
The step will also allow CCAP to continue its efforts in Sampson, where it has provided assistance through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina, the Weatherization Assistance Program and Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Fayetteville (CCCS). Food distribution has been offered in Garland, Harrells, Roseboro and Clinton, the Eastern Carolina Regional Housing Authority, as well as several churches in the area.
“We have distributed over 100,000 pounds of food since the beginning of this year,” Wilson said. “We have a backpack programs at Charles E. Perry and Union Elementary School. We have food pantries, about 16 in many of the communities here in Sampson County. In particular, we’ve done a lot of work through the weatherization program, where we help make homes more energy efficient. We go in, put in a machine and see if we can find air leaks. Then we bring contractors in to seal those leaks.”
In December 2010, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners authorized CCAP to submit, as Sampson County’s designee, an application for the county’s share of CSBG funds. At the time, Sampson was one of eight counties whose residents did not have access to funds through CSBG, a federal program administered by the state. The funds were designated for the development of programs to promote the economic and social well-being of low-income individuals.
Wilson said she was happy to announce CCAP’s selection as the eligible entity to receive and administer funding for such services to Sampson County residents.
“The CCAP Board of Directors and staff are most pleased with the award of this designation and look forward to working with residents, businesses, community partners and elected officials in delivering services to Sampson County,” said Wilson.
During nearly a half century of experience with the CSBG program, CCAP has assisted individuals in attaining education; securing safe and secure places to live; receiving dental and medical treatment; and various mentoring through the job search process, to include work on resumes and job applications, as well as interview preparation.
“There will be residents who may not have had a champion or a coach, who now will be able to have someone through the case managers who provide this service,” said Wilson. “They can get the additional support and encouragement it takes to learn new skills and perhaps get the degree that will give them a little bit of a cadre into their new job.”
Among other services, CCAP has sought to feed the hungry, educate first-time home buyers, provide free tax preparation, prevent mortgage foreclosure; assist senior citizens in avoiding scams; and make homes more energy efficient. Wilson highlighted mortgage foreclosure mitigation.
“I always like to tell folks that if you know someone who is facing challenges in paying a mortgage, there is help out there,” said Wilson. “That is one of the things we do through our Consumer Credit Counseling Services division. There are many ways we can help people who are facing the question of ‘How do I stay in my home?’ There are resources, and we want to make them available to residents of Sampson County.”
Wilson said CCAP hoped to have physical offices established in Sampson, likely in Clinton, by October. While fiscal years traditionally begin July 1, CCAP’s transition to Sampson would necessitate the first fiscal year to run from Oct. 1 to June 30. Even with an abbreviated first fiscal year in Sampson, CCAP aims to have enrolled 20 Sampson County residents as participants in the ASPIRE Self-Sufficiency program by the June 30, 2013 close.
Wilson said she and others, including CCAP program director Stephanie Ashley, would be developing a needs assessment in the coming weeks to be able to customize a program to Sampson. Wilson called on the assistance of the county board, as well as the community, in identifying needs that CCAP may be able to assist.
“I think (CCAP’s) efforts are most certainly needed, especially in our economy,” said Commissioner Albert Kirby. “We find many people in need of those services, and we hope that (CCAP) will prosper.”
For more information about the program development, visit www.ccap-inc.org.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.