Community Action Responds to special requests during pandemic

Community Action continues to help communities during the coronavirus pandemic. As new situations occur, agencies are quickly adapting to meet the needs of customers. One way that has been especially impactful at Community Action Wayne/Medina (CAW/M) is the well-being calls staff are making to let customers know about new services and just checking in with people to let them know Community Action wants to know how they are doing and what they need.

Don, a customer and community stakeholder of CAW/M, needed help paying his rent. He had the funds to do so but he was notified by his landlord that, due to COVID-19, they would not accept his usual cash payment for April. Being in a vulnerable group at risk of complications from the virus, he feared going out to obtain the money order they now required. Fortunately, the solution was a phone call away.

Kay, an energy assistance representative at CAW/M, had been calling customers to check on them. When Don answered the phone, he explained his situation and the anxiety he had about paying his rent on time and safely.

“We spoke for a good bit about the situation,” Kay said. “I reminded him that during this time of crisis, there was no action going to be taken against him, however he was still upset.”

That’s when Kay asked if Don would feel comfortable allowing a staff member from the transportation program to work with him to pick up the money and get the rent paid for him.  Don has been a long-time customer of Community Action and still uses the transportation service monthly.

“[Community Action] has helped me out a lot,” Don said. “They even brought me some food!”

The trust built between Don and Community Action was vital to being successful in this special request. Not only were personal finances involved, but so was the health and safety of both Don and the staff. Arranging a no-contact pick up is a new way to operate for businesses and people. So, armed with gloves and a mask, a driver for Gilcrest—a contracted transportation provider for CAW/M—drove to Don’s home. The driver picked up the money for Don’s rent, purchased a money order, and dropped off the payment to his landlord so Don could stay in his home.

 “Don has been a long-time customer of ours utilizing both energy and transportation services over the years,” said Mary Raitano, Director of Housing and Economic Assistance. “We are happy we were able to assist him with this special service.”

CAW/M was also able to help Don from a distance with his gas and electric bills when they quadrupled. By enrolling him in PIPP, his bills became manageable once again and fit within his budget.

“Sometimes I have to rely on people because I can’t get out,” Don shared. “Community Action is doing a fantastic job connecting with clients just to see if there is anything we need. Things are different right now. They’ve been a lifesaver.”

As a former small business owner, Don has a history of giving back to the community.  He continued those giving ways after retirement, making and donating a table to Community Action, along with some paintings that he created.  He has also served on Community Action focus groups and as a board member for a local foundation that assists people in getting back into the workforce.

Though services are operating under exceptional circumstances and look different than before the pandemic, Community Action remains open as an essential service throughout Ohio. To find your local agency, visit our online directory.