Grants helping others

Published 11:55 am Monday, July 27, 2015

When locals need a helping hand, the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is there to help out. Offered through the Community Action Organization (CAO) the CSBG “was the original CAO program” begun as a result of the War on Poverty, said Jim Malone, outreach coordinator for CSBG.

The mission of CSBG is “to assist in the fight against poverty in our community,” a goal they “equate with need for nourishment and helping fire victims,” said Malone. Providing referrals to food banks and giving locals assistance following house fires, the CSBG helps locals rebound after a catastrophe or financial crisis.

The CSBG has impacted a large number of local families, with the number of people served last year surpassing 1,000.

“At our height we’ve assisted over 1,500 in a year,” said Malone.

When it comes to helping the community, the organization is dedicated to offering the best possible service. For the CSBG, striving for excellence in helping clients is essential.

“We are evaluated…(on) how well we fulfill our mission,” said Malone.

Many of the clients who rely on the CSBG for aid have been referred through other local aid organizations such as the Red Cross or area churches, said Malone.

When clients come to the organization for food bank referrals, they will go through a screening process to assess their level of need. The screening process determines how much assistance can be provided to the clients based on federal requirements of the individual’s income, said Malone.

Although each CSBG client must go through a screening process, Malone said the process is a way to determine “how well we know our community,” “They are folks who are trying (to live without assistance). “It’s really gratifying…to know we’ve made a difference.”

The CSBG partners with local churches that provide food banks. Malone said the partnership has been ideal because it lets churches know how much assistance they should provide clients based on the screening process.

In the past, locals have gone directly to the food banks for help, but the current partnership between the CSBG and churches makes the CSBG the first stop for people in need. Malone said the process is ideal because it keeps churches from exhausting their resources and allows the CSBG to offer additional resources to clients.

The CSBG is a “stop gap for deficiencies in other areas,” said Malone.

Through the CSBG, locals who have lost their homes or belongings in house fires can get assistance with household supplies. The CSBG goes through a series of steps to determine the needs of the victims and then provides support by offering gift cards to stores where clients can buy household items.

The CSBG has seen positive outcomes for families. For one local family, the program was a way to get a fresh start after the husband and wife were released from correctional facilities and needed help finding housing and groceries. Thanks to the aid offered through CSBG, the couple was able to obtain housing, jobs, and food referrals.

When Malone first began working for the CSBG, the job opened his eyes to the needs of the community.

“It was an awakening for me,” he said.

Having worked for the organization for over a decade, Malone is glad to be part of helping the community.

“It’s nice to step in and be part of success,” said Malone.

For more about the CSBG, visit the CAO website at ilcao.org/csbg.