VAC seeking funds for 211 program

PARKERSBURG – Officials with the Volunteer Action Center and Foster Grandparent Program asked Wood County commissioners Monday to consider providing additional funding for their respective agencies.

Katy Sulfridge, VAC executive director, and Tom Heller, VAC board chairman, asked the county for funding help for the agency’s 211 Information and Referral Program. Mary Rader coordinates the program for the VAC.

“Mary has a database of agencies that can provide assistance, lists resources available and the requirements for those services. Over the past two years, the system has received 4,205 calls, and that doesn’t include all the followups she does,” Sulfridge said.

The VAC has been part of the information/referral program since 2000. The city of Parkersburg contributed funding through its Community Block Grant during the early years. That ran out in 2008, and the VAC has been filling in the funding gap ever since, the director said.

The agency receives $2,500 annually from the United Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley for the program.

“The problem is the cost for the program is $25,000. We save 911 a lot of non-emergency calls, inquiries. During the derecho, Mary took a lot of phone calls from people who needed assistance. We would ask you to consider contributing the remainder of the needed program funding if possible. This is the only program with the VAC that doesn’t have a guaranteed source of funding,” Sulfridge said. “It’s a vital, heavily used program.”

The director said the funds go to the salaries, computer software and other expenses related to the program.

“It is now being funded primarily through the main VAC budget, and that wasn’t such a problem until two years we lost two tenants in the Community Services Agencies rentals, so we lost that rental income. We are actively trying to rent the space,” Heller said.

Sulfridge said the agency is also seekings grants.

“The program is worthwhile, and provides a service to the county. We are going into budget hearings for the new year, so we can consider your request then,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

Sulfridge said this program is the only one providing this service.

“Our funds are tight, it’s tough. We scratch our heads wondering how are we going to solve everyone’s problems, but we will review this at budget time,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

Two years ago the county commission gave the VAC $2,500 to address heating,ventilation, air-conditioning system problems.

Also Monday, Janet Somerville, program director with Foster Grandparents asked for funds for that agency.

“The foster grandparents are individuals who are 55 years of age and older, low income, they go through a background check, background checks, they are placed in area schools, headstarts and day care centers. They serve 15-40 hours a week. We have 120 placed in the 19 counties we cover,” Somerville said. There are 12 foster grandparents currently in Wood County serving at placement sites all over the county.

The program is required to provide a 30 percent match for a $53,000 grant. No state money is used in the program.

She asked the commission for $1,000 for the current year and to commit to another $1,000 for next year.

The grannies are paid a stipend of $2.65 an hour. They are reimbursed for mileage and receive a meal at the sites where they work.

“We already set aside $750 for your program in our current budget?If you haven’t received that, write us a letter requesting those funds be disbursed and requesting the additional $250,” Commissioner Blair Couch said. Somerville said she had already turned in a letter of request for the $1,000 for next year.

The Foster Grandparent Program, which is sponsored by the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, is a National Senior Service Corp Program.