Author: United Community Action Network

Letter from the Executive Director – Spring 2022

Letter from the Executive Director

From our veteran services to our early childhood programming, all of our services benefit your community. When we pay off a neighbor’s unpaid water bill, your community receives funds that keep everyone’s water bills lower. When a child attends Head Start classes, their parents have more time they can work, earning money that supports local businesses. Those receiving tax assistance from us often obtain refunds that they then invest in local communities.

Our work also benefits a range of local institutions, like schools, hospitals and public safety departments. Teachers work with more children that are ready to succeed in the classroom. Hospitals have fewer patients needing costly care. Police are less involved with managing issues often exacerbated by poverty, like addiction.

When your neighbors have their needs met, the quality of life improves throughout your community. Rather than spending the day focused on addressing families’ basic needs, parents have time to get involved with their children’s school, to take their kids to local parks. Seniors that were formerly isolated now volunteer and engage with other community members in need.

I invite you to join us in Caring for Our Communities. Your donations provide critical flexible funds allowing us to meet urgent needs. Your service as a volunteer brings you great satisfaction while helping a neighbor in need. Looking for meaningful work? We would love to chat with you, as we have many open positions that can further your career.

To find out more about how to join us in caring for your community, I invite you to visit our new website at www.ucancap.org.

Returning Home to Care for Her Community

Returning Home to Care for Her Community

What would you do after working for 40 years in the hospitality industry, followed by helping to care for a parent with Alzheimer’s? For Zackie Fox, the answer was to volunteer to provide more help to others. Not long after moving to Grants Pass to help her mother, she joined us as a volunteer care attendant, and offered training to others supporting loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

When she felt she needed a “rest” from this work, Zackie volunteered to be a driver for our non-emergency medical transportation program. Our volunteer drivers make sure that qualifying individuals in need of transportation get to medical and dental appointments, even to pharmacies and other health-related locations. We cover mileage costs, but volunteers otherwise donate their time and energy.

In 2018, we hired Zackie to work as a dispatcher for the program. As a dispatcher, Zackie ensured drivers completed their routes, even when emergencies like severe weather potentially interfered with service. She excelled at this work, but she didn’t know that a health emergency would soon change UCAN and her work.

That emergency was COVID. During some of the worst days of the pandemic, her supervisor passed away from the virus. We turned to Zackie and asked if she was willing to try managing the program. Despite having no experience overseeing a transportation program, Zackie agreed. She knew the service provided a critical link connecting low-income residents to their desperately needed medical care, and she was going to do everything in her power to keep that service operating.

As she says, “the first six months were really tough.” Not only did she have to learn on the fly, she had to do so as COVID both reduced the number of volunteer drivers and changed how we provided the service. But she persevered to keep the program going.

Having made it through those first difficult months, Zackie is now rebuilding the number of available drivers. In doing so, she has ensured that residents from Coos, Josephine and Douglas County lacking reliable transportation can still make it to healthcare appointments. Asked how she’s feeling having taken on a huge task, she responds: “I’m just peachy.”

You too can feel peachy by joining our team of volunteer drivers! Contact us at volunteer@ucancap.org and include Medicaid Transportation in the subject line.

Keep the Water Flowing

Keep the Water Flowing

For many decades, UCAN has offered assistance so that households can avoid having their power cut-off. Our energy assistance program has benefitted countless numbers of local residents. Last year alone we paid 3,410 utility bills for local folks. Now we can help households with water and sewer bills.

With the pandemic’s continuing toll on very low-income households, the federal government has expanded funding for utility assistance to help people cover their water and sewer bills as well. Households who are at or below 60% state median income are income eligible for the program. We pay utilities directly on behalf of eligible households to reconnect services, avert disconnection of services, and pay past-due amounts and current charges.

We launched the program a few months ago, and its importance has grown since then. While the pandemic continues to wax and wane, inflation has hit levels not seen since the 1980s. Lower-income households are most affected by inflation, as they have few options to reduce their costs. So we are seeing more folks in need of aid to keep them from losing water and sewer service.

At the same time, utilities benefit from this program, as it helps them cover charges for prior service they might not otherwise be able to recover. We’ve been delighted to have fifteen local utilities enter into agreements to offer this service to their customers. Together, we’re helping their customers address the most basic need of all!

A Long and Winding Road

A Long and Winding Road

Every little bit helps. We can keep an entire household off the streets by making a few rent payments. We can keep another household warm in winter by paying their utility bills. Even a single, emergency meal keeps a child active and engaged at home and school that day. That’s why we cherish your donations, no matter the size.

But sometimes households have complex problems, and staff need to work long and hard to make a deep and lasting difference. Our Healthy Family home visiting program takes the long view when working with families. We offer services supporting families with newborns that can last until the child is three years old. A family support specialist meets weekly with families, offering advice and support to enhance child health and development, child safety, mom’s self-care, and family well-being.

Charles and Becky Meyers recently needed significant support from our program to get their lives back on track. Their twins Hallie and Zach were born prematurely, and had to receive intensive care in Portland for several months. Hallie had serious heart defects, and eventually needed open-heart surgery. Thankfully she recovered. In those initial months, the support specialist worked with the Meyers, helping them seek SNAP, TANF and SSI supports while connecting them with mental health, early intervention and many other services.

Tragically, when the Meyers were making arrangements to come back home to Douglas County, the friend they were living with committed suicide. The Meyers were now homeless. We were able to connect the Meyers to our Housing Stabilization Services program, where they obtained a voucher to live in a motel. While the voucher helped, the Meyers had to move nine times using the voucher to stay off of the streets.

But during this time, with the help and support of many, they took giant steps forward. They reconnected with Becky’s family. Charles was able to get a full-time job. Both children were released from health restrictions. Now, they are finally moving into their own new home, a two-bedroom duplex. Throughout, our staff not only provided a wealth of support and services, they were a constant source of care and comfort. We are so happy to see the Meyers moving on with their lives.

A Fond Farewell

A Fond Farewell

Kelly has been a key member of UCAN’s leadership for most of her time with us. She has been the leader of our Josephine County office. Click here to learn more about Kelly’s contribution to UCAN and our communities.

UCAN originally brought Kelly on to oversee our RSVP program. She soon added oversight of UCAN’s AmeriCorps and VISTA programs to her responsibilities. Upon taking over as COO, Kelly also began administering UCAN’s homeless program, as well as our energy assistance and weatherization programs.

Kelly has played a pivotal role in growing UCAN’s presence in Josephine County. When UCAN began operating in the County, we superseded an agency that had been part of County governance. As Kelly says, it was important that UCAN “rebuild local relationships and restore trust for those who depended on the agency for services.” Kelly worked hard to make that happen, fostering many collaborations, and hosting such partnerships as the Josephine County Homeless Task Force.

Kelly has been a major proponent for ensuring local folks coming to us obtain everything we can offer so they can succeed. Not only has she continually promoted “wrapping services” within UCAN, she has promoted integrating services between UCAN and its many partner agencies. She’s also focused on finding ways to embed new technologies to streamline processes and provide better service delivery.

While at UCAN, Kelly’s programs have distributed record amounts of assistance to local folks. Her programs have received national awards, including one for an innovative veteran service program. But most important to Kelly are the people she has met along the way. As she says, she has learned from all of them.

As just one example, she and her staff worked with an individual who had been homeless for ten years, who had slept in the snow, who had trouble communicating when he first connected with UCAN. At first, he wasn’t allowed to pay his own rental bill, and was instead assigned a payee to do so. We were able to get benefits for him, to get him rent assistance. As his life stabilized, he took over paying his bills. Nobody who met him when he first left the streets would have thought he could live independently, but he was able to do so. As Kelly says, he was one of many people who taught her that people are amazingly resilient when given the chance to succeed.