Bruce Garcia, CEO of JCEO, said the group’s mission is to provide services and resources that enhance people’s dignity and self reliance.
The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin counties is dedicated to providing resources and services that enhance people’s dignity and self reliance.
“We offer a variety of programs and community outreach programs here and in 10 centers throughout the county,” said Bruce Garcia, chief executive officer for JCEO. “We do emergency services throughout the area that assist families with eviction and utility shut off and more.
“Such situations are very common.”
One such service JCEO, which was established in 1965, offers is a food shelf in Plattsburgh and each center it operates.
The shelves are partly stocked with donations from businesses such as Sam’s Club, Walmart and Target, as well as local vendors.
“We probably service between 500 to 600 families a month through food pantries,” Garcia said. “It is significant.”
JCEO also operates a daycare program that assists providers in becoming certified, such as by providing items like a fence.
JCEO helps in-home daycare providers get reimbursed for providing nutritious snacks and meals.
The energy-services department offers weatherization that helps make homes more energy efficient. It also provides a variety of programs to help individuals obtain loans to make their homes more energy efficient.
Head Start through JCEO can be found in 10 centers in Clinton County and seven in Franklin county. The agency further has three home-based visitor programs where workers enter areas not large enough to support a Head Start center.
“Head Start helps prepare kids for kindergarten and takes a holistic approach to working with families,” Garcia said. “We have family workers who work directly with families on a host of issues, such as budgeting and looking for a job. All activities that enhance the family to help the child.
“We are funded to serve 337 children and their families.”
That is not nearly the need that exists in the two counties, he pointed out.
“If we had more funds we would be serving more kids.”
In fact, JCEO just saw funds for the Home Energy Assistance Program slashed. HEAP provides direct payment for heating bills for low-income families.
“With HEAP the need will far exceed the availability this year,” Garcia said. “Given the state of the economy and the price of oil, I can’t say I understand Congress’ reduction in HEAP.
“I don’t think it is going to be good.”
Under contract with the Office for the Aging, JCEO operates senior outreach.
“Workers meet with seniors in their homes and assist them in getting the services they need,” Garcia said. “We also have a rural transportation program and help them get volunteers to take them to and from medical appointments.”
He explained that in one year in one particular town, JCEO coordinated more than 825 rides. They provide 3,000 to 3,500 rides yearly to seniors.
The need for JCEO is growing.
“We have seen people apply for benefits whom we have never seen before,” Garcia said.
During 2010-11, JCEO experienced almost a 30 percent increase in the number of people accessing their food pantries.
The agency works with in excess of 8,000 families and close to 25,000 individuals.
“We provide such a broad array of services, and they are not available if we are not here,” Garcia said.