Helping people in three counties

Published 12:14 am Thursday, April 10, 2003

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS -- Help is available to those in need, what is important is to get the word out so people are aware of services offered in Cass, Berrien and Van Buren counties.
Two representatives from the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency (SMCAA) presented a summary Thursday evening to the Cass County Commissioners of what their agency accomplishes.
Judith Peterson, Deputy Director, and Art Fenrick, Executive Director of SMCAA also told of a pilot program in Cass County which is continually growing.
The Individual Development Counseling (IDC) provides those under a certain income level to get guidance in improving their credit rating to eventually become home owners. They started working with two clients and are now up to 22. They still have resources for a few more.
Other programs help the chronic homeless find permanent housing, shelter house families in need temporarily, and another even helps purchase more efficient refrigerators for those on limited incomes.
Nearly 500 families receive commodity supplements or emergency food assistance. Over 60 homes were weatherized in Cass County. Funds are also available to help with winter heating bills.
SMCAA brings federal and state grant dollars, along with local dollars into programs directed to those with low incomes, the elderly and otherwise disadvantaged.
Another program Peterson described to the Commissioners will match dollars up to $3,000 saved by the client in order to help them make a major purchase, such as a home, start their own business or provide tuition for further education.
In all, the agency has assisted 202 households and 715 individuals between Oct. 1, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2002.