Date:September 17, 2010
Contact:Public Relations @ (225) 342-3035

Community Action Awards, Showcase Highlight Monroe Regional Heroes

RICHWOOD – The community action agencies that serve low-income individuals in Lincoln, Ouachita, Union and West Carroll parishes honored those making a difference in their communities at a special event Friday morning (Sept. 17) at the new Ollie Burns Branch Library in Richwood.

Honored at the Community Action Hero Awards and Showcase were Zion Traveler Baptist Church of Ruston, Coastal Truck Driving School of Calhoun, Oak Grove Recreation and Civic Club/Combs McIntyre Center, and Sharon Simpson and Roberta Farmer, both of Downsville. The event also included a showcase of the services the agencies offer to area residents through Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding administered by the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC).

Humanitarian Enterprises of Lincoln Parish named Zion Traveler Baptist Church of Ruston as its Community Action Hero, with Wilbur Ellis accepting the award for the church. “This organization assisted our agency by filling a gap in services to low-income residents of Lincoln Parish,” said Rosalind Fowler-Jones, HELP executive director in her nomination. The church has voluntarily provided such services as yard work, performing housekeeping tasks for elderly and disabled, running errands for the elderly and/or disabled, and providing transportation accessibility for the elderly and/or disabled to necessary destinations on weekends. The church “did not dictate what it would do, but instead asked, ‘What can we do? How may we help?’ “ Fowler-Jones said.

Ouachita Multi-Purpose Community Action Program, Inc. (OMCAP) selected Coastal Truck Driving School, located in Calhoun, for its Community Action Hero Award. Accepting the award on behalf of the school was Sam Stone, training site director. The truck driving school was honored for its partnership with OMCAP in accepting scholarships for training and job placement for new over-the-road truck drivers, with the scholarships paid only if the trainee graduated. To date, more than 80 residents have applied for scholarships, with 55 selected and 50 have graduated with job offers – a 91 percent graduation rate. Of the 50 graduates, 88 percent are currently employed with carriers at a minimum salary of $30,000 per year. “This $250,000 investment represents a potential return of investment of $1.32 million in salaries alone,” said OMCAP Executive Director Ibra B. January in his nomination.

Macon Economic Opportunity, Inc., which serves West Carroll Parish, selected the Oak Grove Recreation and Civic Club /Combs McIntyre Center for its Community Action Hero Award. Accepting the award on behalf of the non-profit club was Juanita Smith, club treasurer. The club is based on the Combs McIntyre School site, the parish’s last minority school, which was destroyed by fire in 1969. Through grants from the West Carroll Police Jury, the organization developed the facility, which includes a computer lab to assist individuals with their education. The club partnered with Macon Economic Opportunity to provide the computer lab to tutor students in school and after-school programs, with 40 students assisted to date. “This has been a great program and wonderful opportunity for the students in our parish,” said Macon Executive Director Aurtha Mae Sanders in her nomination. Sanders cited the work of Smith as well as club President Bobby Cockerham, both retired teachers. Smith serves as program director and Cockerham has supervised students.

Union Community Action Association, Inc. selected staffers Sharon Simpson and Roberta Farmer, both of Downsville, for its Community Action Hero Award. Simpson is program coordinator/special project supervisor and Farmer is special project assistant at the agency, with a combined 19 years of service working together in the agency’s CSBG department, which distributed more than $579,000 in direct assistance, emergency food and shelter funds, and low-income home energy assistance to hundreds of clients in rural Union Parish from July 1, 2008 though June 30, 2010. “These two ladies have worked long hours, listened with caring hearts to so many heart-breaking stories from their clients, and have referred hundreds of clients to other agencies for further assistance. They both have a special bond with many of their clients,” said agency Director Diane P. Hill in her nomination.

The awards were presented as part of the LWC’s statewide promotion of community action agencies that provide supportive services to help low-income individuals become or remain self-sufficient.

Other agencies that serve the Monroe area include the East Carroll Community Action Agency, Delta Community Action Agency, Inc., LaSalle Community Action Agency, Inc., and Pine Belt Multi-Purpose Agency, Inc. The LaSalle CAA, which serves residents in Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, Franklin, Grant, LaSalle and Tensas parishes, presented its Hero Award Thursday at an event in Alexandria. Pine Belt Multi-Purpose Agency, which serves Jackson Parish as well as Bienville, Morehouse, Red River, Sabine and Winn parishes, presented its Hero Award Wednesday in Shreveport.

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