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As need for services grows, WCAP fills the gaps

By Fran Gonzalez | Apr 21, 2020

Belfast — “We have all been in crisis and response mode,” said Donna Kelley, president and CEO of Waldo Community Action Partners, an agency that helps low-income residents countywide. “But there is a lot of wonderful work happening and an amazing amount of community engagement, cooperation and collective response.”

In an interview with The Republican Journal April 16, Kelley, along with Dorothy Havey, WCAP’s resource developer, spoke about issues currently facing Waldo County and how WCAP is adapting and expanding to meet the growing demand.

Havey, who came on board in February, said it has been an exciting opportunity so far and also “an honor and privilege” to bring her strengths and experience to WCAP.

While assessing the unfolding situation, Kelley said, agency staff are constantly gleaning information from a wide variety of sources, including other community partners, trying to determine what people need.  “Our role is to assess those needs and identify gaps,” she said, “and coordinate a response to meet those gaps.”

Among the vital issues WCAP is tackling is food insecurity and the logistics of how to get food and supplies to people who need them. While food distribution is not a new program for WCAP, the agency is using its infrastructure to reach more individuals in need.

Kelley said historically WCAP has provided a food service to its early childhood programs. “Like a lot of school districts now, we are supporting our early childhood families with this food service,” she said.

“We are a Good Shepherd Food Bank partner and are responding to those needs and expanding to general public needs, targeting seniors who are shut-ins or on a wait list for Meals on Wheels.

“We are also targeting other highly vulnerable demographics and coordinating with community partners,” Kelley said. “We’ve provided excess capacity to our local soup kitchen when we had excess funds and food, and we are now looking to target local veterans.

“Our first food drive we served 250 families,” Kelley said, adding that 143 of those "were early childhood families and 107 were for the general public.”

Through the agency’s community needs assessment program, Kelley said, it has been aware for several years now of food insecurity issues in Waldo County and the broad demographics to which it applies.

Families with young children, working families, people with entry-level jobs, seniors, individuals with disabilities, people experiencing health care issues, and those with substance abuse issues all make up the demographics which WCAP serves.

The agency is also helping people meet their food and medical needs by providing access to transportation, Kelley said.

Recently WCAP partnered with a local food bank that did not have capacity to pick up food for its facility. “We redeployed some of our DASH buses and staff to pick up some bulk food orders for that food pantry,” Kelley said.

Havey added, “That happened last Thursday, and it is actually happening again right now.”

“We found there is a continuing need and we will attempt to meet that on an as-needed basis going forward,” Kelley said. “Just another example of utilizing the resources we have and filling a gap in the community that we were made aware of.”

Demand for cleaning and personal care supplies such as dish and laundry soap, shampoo, baby wipes and diapers has risen considerably in the past month and the agency is looking for ways to help.

“We have some limited funds which we are looking to target and redeploy,” Kelley said.

“We will be coordinating a diaper response,” she said. A “Diaper Closet” will take place next Tuesday, as well as partnerships through area churches, other community organizations and WCAP itself.

“We are hosting a drive-by once a month event and will be looking to access further needs and identify new resources with increases in demand,” Kelley said. “Next week’s diaper response will be through an appointment process and we currently only have capacity for 10 families. We’re trying to identify new resources and that event will take place at our Field Street location.”

Heating assistance is also among the services WCAP provides. “This year we have an increase in the income eligibility for heating assistance, so we hope that everybody who is able and potentially eligible to apply for heating assistance has already,” Kelley said. “We are making calls to people who haven’t completed the process and have applied in the past that we haven’t seen applications for; and we are poised to meet increased demand.”

Havey said in her role as a resource developer, she is looking to partner with local fundraisers that have established COVID-19 rapid response programs, such as United Midcoast Charities and United Way.

“We’re working very hard to meet all these needs and looking to continue the summer food programs,” Havey said.

Kelley said the agency also has case management specialists, or generalists, who can provide support for people feeling isolated. “Sometimes you just need to talk to someone that can provide support and they can link you to other resources.”

For more information about all the services WCAP provides or to reach a resource advocate, call 338-6809 or email info@waldocap.org. While currently the office is staffed remotely, Kelley said, people can leave a message and someone will get back to them. The line is monitored regularly.

 

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