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Agency aims to be self-sufficient
Feb 24, 2013 4:00 pm
People may not know Mid-Cumberland Community Action Agency, but most people know its programs.
Children throughout Wilson County benefit from its Head Start program, which offers basic necessities for children of low-income families.
“If they need dental work, they get dental work; if they need to go to the eye doctor, it takes care of that,” said Kevin Davenport, executive director of MCCAA.
The program even provides meals for needy children.
“There are 960 children we feed twice a day, but that’s throughout Middle Tennessee,” said Davenport.
MCCAA, which covers eight counties in Middle Tennessee, is a private nonprofit relying heavily on federal funding.
The agency is part of the Community Action Agency program founded more than 45 years ago by the federal government to help combat the war on poverty.
“It’s basically the safety net that keeps people out of total government assistance,” said Davenport.
Programs such as the Low Income Heating and Air Program also benefit low-income families.
“The LIHEAP program is about a $4.5 million program that helps low-income families pay their utility bill,” said Davenport.
Part of what makes MCCAA programs unique, though, is that they also target the roots of the problems.
“The mission of the agency is to help low-income individuals and families become self-sufficient,” said Davenport. “Basically, we teach people how to fish instead of just giving out fish.”
By creating a case around each individual or family seeking help, the agency finds out what situation is causing the need and identifies what assistance can be offered to solve the problem.
“It may be a mental issue or emotional issue; it could be job ethics; it could be medication or alcohol abuse; it could be despair or depression,” said Davenport.
The agency even has a weatherization program that helps people make their homes more energy efficient.
“You’d be surprised at the number of homes that we run across that have absolutely no insulation in them – it is literally walls and then siding or brick, so once you put insulation in a home and tighten it up – seal all the cracks and whatnot – they usually save about $75 a month,” said Davenport. “Even if it’s $35 a month, by the time you add it up, $500 at the end of the year – to someone who only makes $12,000 – is a significant bump to help them pay for medications.”
He said many of the people served are elderly struggling to pay for medications.
“We take time to figure out what’s going on with the person to see if we can help them out…We take families who are dependent on the system and help them build that self-esteem – that self-worth – and help to give them the tools necessary so that then they can get up and walk on their own and teach the next generation how to do it.”