WSOS spotlights programs

A local community action agency is spreading awareness about services it provides during all of May, which is community action month.

WSOS is a non-profit agency that contracts with federal, state and local entities to develop, administer and deliver human and social services.

The community action agency dedicates almost all of its funding toward income eligible families, individuals and communities, said Joyce Huntley, director of public relations.

“We’re pretty aggressive in seeking funding to bring to the community,” she said. “People turn up their nose and say, ‘You’re giving people a hand out,’ but if you don’t have bootstraps, you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

WSOS offers a wide variety of services to a wide variety of people, Huntley said.

“We are very diverse in what we do,” she said. “Even for a community action agency, we are very diverse. We might not be the largest in terms of people served but we have more services than most other community action agencies.”

WOSOS aids in housing repair programs like Community Housing Improvement Program and Home Weatherization Assistance Program.

HWAP served 130 homes in Seneca County in 2012, and CHIP repaired and rehabilitated 49 homes in the county last year.

“The whole premise is that if you assist somebody who has limited financial resources with these kinds of things, then they would have a little more in their pockets to go to the doctor,” she said. “It’s a safety issue for the community. It definitely upgrades the neighborhood if a home is brought up to code and safety issues are taken care of.”

Huntley said WHAP is losing funding from the federal budget, but WSOS is trying to get more.

WHAP provides insulation for low-income homes, and do a total energy assessment of a house, including rental homes she said.

“If you think about it, a lot of homes that income eligible families live in are older homes that people turn into rentals, and people don’t like to put money into their rentals,” Huntley said.

Huntley said the Summer Crisis Cooling Program is another service WSOS provides low-income households.

The program provides air conditioning for people who are more prone to be negatively effected by heat, including the elderly, babies and people with breathing problems, she said.

The program served 1,297 families and individuals in Wood, Sandusky, Ottawa and Seneca counties including 285 in Seneca alone.

Huntley said WSOS is working on getting people to call and write congressmen to keep funding for their programs.

WSOS offers services that help family development, which includes early childhood programs, youth services and adult services.

One of the most used early childhood programs, the Head Start program, has received a 5 percent cut, due to the automatic feral budget cuts known as the sequester, Huntley said.

Head Start serves home-based children, center-based children and childcare. The program served 324 children in Seneca County last year.

“We don’t just work with the child,” Huntley said. “We start with the child and once the child’s needs are taken care of, then we work with the family.”

WSOS also offers community development programs, which provide assistance for smaller communities, which help individuals in the long-term, she said. The communities have to meet certain income guidelines to be eligible for these programs.

WSOS provides technical assistance for drinking and waste water systems in the programs, she said.

Huntley said more than 10 years ago, WSOS helped Burgoon and Bettsville get a wastewater treatment plant.

The federal government provides most of WSOS’s funding, Huntley said.

In 2012, the federal government provided $22.7 million, state and local governments provided $2.6 million and WSOS received over $3 million from fee for service programs.

She said WSOS also has a small fundraiser, which is a mail campaign asking for donations. She said the campaign raises about $22,000 a year.

“Poverty is something people don’t understand, they just think people are just lazy,” Huntley said. “It’s more than just getting a job Poverty is a culture; it really is a culture. And you have to understand it, to know how to work with it.”