Prairie Opportunity Inc., holds public hearing

Prairie Opportunity Inc., held its yearly public hearing to inform those interested of services available and to take a community needs assessment.
By: 
DONNA SUMMERALL
Staff Writer

Prairie Opportunity Inc., held its yearly public hearing to inform those interested of services available and to take a community needs assessment. Concerned community members filled the office at Prairie Opportunity to provide a community needs assessment and glean information for what Prairie Opportunity offers to low-income families, the elderly and the disabled in West Point and Clay County. The organization offers help with education, employment needs, health care, nutrition, transportation, free child care, housing, income management, emergency financial assistance, and self-sufficiency.

"Our priority is with the elderly, disabled and households with children ages 5 and under," Janice Miller, a case worker for Prairie Opportunity, said. "Then households with minor children. We target households that have never received our services. They would take priority by having never received services over households we have helped previously."

Weatherization is also offered for low-income homeowners to help keep utility costs down. When successful, it can save homeowners hundreds of dollars per year on their utility and cooling bills.

"You have to own the house, you can't be a renter," Miller said. "In addition to providing proof of income, you must present your deed and ask the utility company to give you a copy of your previous years usage. They need something to show the difference between before and after weatherization has taken place."

Miller said Prairie Opportunity has to be a good steward of the funds they are allocated for the year.

"I know when I see a need I want to help," Miller said. "But we have to stay within our budget, we are limited to the funds that are made available."

Miller said they want to provide all able-bodied people with access to job training. She said if they are able to work, they need to provide for themselves and their children.

"We receive a Community Service Block Grant," Miller said. "Everything is based on income. We need a photo ID, Social Security Card, proof of income, and a bill, utility, gas, in the name of the head of household. We enter the data into the computer and the program assesses eligibility."

She said eligibility is based on gross income, before taxes, medical insurance and other things are taken out, not net income.

"If we can't help you, we do make referrals," Miller said. "If we know of a program that can help, we will refer you to them."

Miller has been with Prairie Opportunity, Inc., since 1992. She said her clients also help her. They motivate her to try harder in helping those who need assistance.

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