I have been to a number of anti-poverty agencies across the state and my awe at the dedication and effort of the people who work at these agencies has yet to subside.
I know that I have written before about how Governor Patrick wants to make sure that we know in detail how the stimulus funds are working, so for this trip I paid a visit to the Worcester Community Action Council to see firsthand the impact of its stimulus funds. Once again, I was amazed at what this agency does to help some of the poorest in its city. Jill Daglis, the energetic executive director of the agency told me that the agency works with 72,000 families annually with that number rising consistently by 1,000 every year for the last few years. “Everyone here jumps in and does what it takes,” she said.
This was evident once I heard from the staff whose programs received stimulus funding. Miurka Torres, the agency’s housing specialist told me that thanks to the intake forms from the summer youth program – a program Jill told me also received stimulus funds – they discovered that many of the participants were homeless. “We ask all different types of questions so we can help them get what they need,” she told me. They also discovered, Jill told me, that many of these youth were hungry so – of course – they created a nutrition program.
The agency’s weatherization program, is on target to weatherize 1,196 homes with stimulus funds. But, as with any of the state’s stimulus-funded weatherization programs the impact goes way beyond the warmer, more energy efficient homes: Mark Sanborn, the director of Energy Resources for the agency told me that they increased their contractor base from 10 to 19 and those contractors increased their crews. That’s more people working and taking care of their families.
The list went on and on. The agency was able to expand its Head Start program with its stimulus awards, it helped more people with fuel assistance and it expanded its Job and Education Center. Judy Finkel, the director of the Center told me she was able to put together coaching, networking and training programs and with stimulus funds she hired 7 people who had been laid off. Again, the impact is multiplied: That’s seven people who can help so many more people get trained and get jobs.
“All seven of us are trying to get our clients on the right track,” Judy told me.
The same could be said for everyone at this agency – they are doing all they can to help those in Worcester who are struggling to get through this tough recession and to get back on their feet. I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: I’m just glad stimulus can help them do that.