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The need is steadily growing for the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity

The community-action agency provides an array of vital services

Bruce Garcia, CEO of JCEO, said the group’s mission is to provide services and resources that enhance people’s dignity and self reliance.

Bruce Garcia, CEO of JCEO, said the group’s mission is to provide services and resources that enhance people’s dignity and self reliance. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

“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.

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