MAY 2017 - In This Issue:
Hope springs eternal...

In my more than a decade in my role as Executive Director here at Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. I can't recall a time where funding and legislative matters in our nation's capital created an atmosphere of such uncertainty. There have been threats of government shutdown and periods of funding sequestration, but never so much uncertainty.

I am by nature an optimistic person and so despite the uncertainty ahead, I remain hopeful and so very proud of the great work WCAC does. I am inspired each and every day by those who take critical first steps towards a life of economic self-sufficiency...

  • the young person who makes the commitment to earn their high school equivalency
  • the single mother who enrolls her child in Head Start in order to accept a full-time employment opportunity
  • the young couple who put aside their differences to learn how to raise their infant in a healthy, stable environment
  • the elderly gentleman who receives fuel assistance allowing him to pay his grocery and medical bills and so is able to remain living in his lifelong home independently.
People helping people. That is what WCAC is truly all about. In a world that sometimes seems to have gone mad with constant struggles and seemingly insurmountable odds, we thought it appropriate to take a moment to share stories of good... stories of hope... stories of success. 

This is community action in action.


Jill C. Dagilis
Executive Director
Please Join Us...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
7:30-9 a.m.
Mechanics Hall
321 Main Street, Worcester

with special guest
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
Noah Berger,
Mass Budget & Policy Office President

Breakfast Buffet 
& Action Hero Awards Presentation

Tickets $50 per person
WCAC Board recalls early years
Alejandro "Alex" Mango is among the newest members of WCAC's Board of Directors. Now the Vice President of US Corporate Audit for National Grid, he fondly recalls his days as a Head Start kid and the important impact it made on him and his family.
Having emigrated from Argentina at an early age my brother, Marcelo and I only knew Spanish as it was the language spoken at home.  Our father had come to the United States several years earlier and had the opportunity to learn English while to this day with an accent.  We arrived with our mother who at the time spoke no English and suffered from depression.  It was a challenge for my brother and me to adjust ourselves given the need to help our mother get by with basic tasks such as grocery shopping, we began to adapt to our new environment.
My earliest memory  of Head Start, which I confirmed with my older brother was being in a classroom and playing with these large wooden cars.  Being able to play with other kids our age and being able to socialize through a common interest helped us engage while learning the language.  Head Start helped us and encouraged us as we learned to speak English.  This prepared us for the next stage of our education entering kindergarten in a public school setting.
Head Start was also gr e at  for our mother who was able to make frien ds with other moms who became part of her support network.   My brother went on to join the Navy and then got into law enforcement after completing his college degree.  Today, Marcelo is a Police Officer in Tennessee.  I went on to be the first in my family to finish my college education and today work for National Grid in a job I love. 
My early participation in Head Start helped establish a foundation in courage and determination.  While I spent two years in first grade I never gave up.  Over the years that early experience helped to shape who I am today. I have a great compassion for others who have challenges either in language, learning or other areas and continue my involvement through mentoring. 
I believe programs like Head Start are extremely important in helping build the values and self-confidence of young children from all walks of life.  


Wednesday, May 24, 2017
1 - 4 p.m.
Notre Dame La Salle Hall, 444 Main Street, Southbridge

Are you pregnant? Newly parenting? 
Don't miss this event - receive gift bags, prizes, food and lots of information! 
Admission is free.

For additional information please contact  Camille Diaz at 508.909.0061. 


Be a Head Start Hero!

Help Turn Up the Heat for those struggling with home heating bills!

Make a difference in the life a young person today!

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Fuel Assistance & Weatherization programs making major impact for local households
James Evangeline of Auburn, a retired automotive shop owner and veteran, says he is very grateful to still be residing in the house he and his wife, Barbara, have called home for the last forty-four years.  Facing an aged and failing furnace and health issues complicated by a stroke, their future was uncertain.  Through WCAC's weatherization programs, however, the couple received a new furnace as well as insulation throughout their house and attic. Knowing Mr. Evangeline's fondness for all things mechanical, the energy crew from Charlton Oil even set him up with a lawn chair in the basement to 'supervise' the installation. "They let me throw the switch once it was installed and it's been going ever since," he says with a smile.

"I don't know where we would be..." says James pensively. "We couldn't have afforded to do this ourselves. We appreciate every bit of it. And we're still in our own home."
"At the start of the heating season my family oil tank began to leak after a delivery of oil. The tank which was old and rotted needed immediate replacement. Without the emergency assistance of WCAC and the Heating Emergency Assistance Retrofit Task Weatherization Program (HEARTWAP) we would not have been able to afford to do that as we are low income and our oil company quoted the repairs at $3,000 which we did not have. We are a working family and without this program we would not have been able to get this taken care of quickly and safely. We would not have had heat as deliveries could not be made until the tank was replaced. Thank you for what you do!"
- Sarah, Douglas
"In recent months as I've paid attention to the efforts of the new president and his team, I have been cringing. If he succeeds in cutting LIHEAP and other vital programs like it, people like me who just want to do the best they can and remain independent will lose big time. I have a long way to go before I'm comfortable, but I'm working again. If not for the comfort I have that I don't have to ask my family for their help with my heating costs on top of everything else these last few months, I don't know where I would be. I'm certain my overall health would have been jeopardized without the assistance I've received through WCAC."
- Lacy Ann, Fiskdale
WCAC's Fuel Assistance and Energy Efficiency programs assist homeowners and renters with home heating bills, past due balances on utility bills, and in some cases receiving forgiveness credit and making monthly payments. Energy efficient weatherization, heating system repair and upgrades can help to stretch energy dollars. Click HERE for additional information.
Vital supports for new and first-time parents 
When Tianna Salas found herself pregnant at just 17 years of age, her school nurse referred her to WCAC's Healthy Families of Southern Worcester County program.  The program provides home visits with an experienced Family Support Advocate to educate and guide expectant and new parents to develop skills that will move them to self-sufficiency and help them raise a healthy family. The program has a positive impact on both maternal and child health, preventing child abuse and neglect, improving child well-being, family functioning and parent well-being. For Tianna it meant access to tremendous resources - everything from what to expect from her changing body to how to quiet a fussy infant, as well as guidance on getting her driver's license, employment resources, clothing thru the Baby Boutique and more.

Today, her daughter, Kaylianna, is a happy, healthy toddler - almost three years old. Tianna juggles her responsibilities as a mother along with two jobs thanks to a supportive family and ongoing guidance from her Healthy Families Advocate.
For the past two years, Tianna has been able to utilize the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program which WCAC offered for the first time to Healthy Families participants in 2015. Utilizing IRS-certified volunteers, the program provides free income tax preparation. "Instead of having to pay to get my taxes done, I was able to get them done for free," she said. "Not everyone has that opportunity. Getting everything from my return helps to save money which is important when you're struggling."   The $5,300 return she received this tax season was promptly deposited in the bank, saving up for a car and other needs for her young daughter.

WCAC's Healthy Families program serves first-time parents (moms and dads) of any age from pregnancy through their child's third birthday, residing in 17 communities located in southern Massachusetts. All services are voluntary and free of charge with no income guidelines. Click HERE for more info.

WCAC is a partner in the Worcester Tax Free Services Coalition, a collaboration of businesses, financial institutions and non-profit organizations who work to promote free income tax credit benefits to low and moderate income working individuals and families as a strategy to build household assets and increase economic self-sufficiency.The VITA program operates January - April each year. Click HERE for more info. 
Head Start supports whole family
Charles and Lucy Kombo emigrated from Kenya to the United States in 2011. With an infant daughter in tow they settled in Southbridge initially living with family in the area. Referred first to WCAC's Early Head Start program, within three weeks a Head Start spot opened and their daughter, Flora, was enrolled. Charles recalls how encouraging, helpful and supportive the other parents were - one even drove his daughter to and from school until he got his own car. He credits Head Start staff and fellow parents with helping him secure his first job as a cleaner.

"The family advocates were so aggressive in helping us - to know how to get a job, how to have a good future," says Charles. "They could see the real outcomes and worked to help us move from poverty to a good level."  He recalls too how Head Start teachers intentionally placed Cindy in a classroom with another child from Kenya who like his daughter spoke Swahili. Teachers worked hard to teach them English which in a very short time he says they both came to understand and speak. "By the time she entered kindergarten she was very smart," he boasts, "and never lagged behind."

Flora is now in third grade, with younger sister Cindy poised to graduate from Head Start this spring.  Both Charles & Lucy are now employed full-time and recently bought their own home. In fact, Charles now helps to drive a co-worker's child to and from the Head Start program believing strongly in paying back the kindness extended to him when he was in need. He has become involved with the center's Policy Council, offering his support, guidance and an all-important dad's perspective.

WCAC's Head Start program serves families from the communities of East Brookfield, Leicester, Millbury, Oxford, Spencer, Southbridge and Webster. The program is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Click HERE for more info.
Job & Education Center opens new doors
Meet Juan Martinez - he earned his High School Equivalency certificate (HiSET) through WCAC's Job & Education Center WINGS program last spring. He enrolled at Quinsigamond Community College the very next day and just completed his first year of college. "WCAC provided a very relaxing environment to allow me to focus on my work. They were really fair and understanding," he says. "Without them I think I'd be back at square one working some part time job not really doing much." 

Instead, the 19 year old Worcester native will be spending his second summer employed through the YouthWorks Summer Jobs Program at Future Focus Media, learning about video, photography and audio in TV and film production - a career he ultimately hopes to pursue. He's involved with a special project where he is serving as a mentor, working alongside special needs students and other college and high school students to produce a documentary which will ultimately be shown at The Hanover Theatre in Worcester.
One year ago Kassandra Davila was a single mother of two, living in a Springfield shelter. Today she's living in her own apartment in Worcester enrolled in a Certified Nursing Assistant program at Quinsigamond Community College and credits the support she received through WCAC's Job & Education Center with helping her find a better path. She earned her HiSET through the WINGS program and worked part-time as the receptionist and scheduler for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program while waiting for the CNA program to begin. 

"A year ago I just wanted a job but WCAC helped me realize that was a dead end and I wasn't going to have a career," she says. "Now I'm in a healthy environment and I'm already looking into pursuing my LPN after I finish with my CNA. Everyone at WCAC wants you to succeed."

WINGS is funded by a grant from the US Department of Labor's Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act and provided locally through the Central MA Workforce Investment Board. YouthWorks program is funded through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, administered by the Commonwealth Corporation, coordinated locally by the Central MA Workforce Investment Board, and managed in Worcester and Webster by WCAC. Click HERE for more info.

WCAC: The Antipoverty Agency for Central Massachusetts

Helping people move to economic self-sufficiency through programs, partnerships and advocacy.

Serving the City of Worcester and neighboring communities of Auburn, Blackstone, Boylston, Brimfield, Brookfield, Charlton, Clinton, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Hardwick, Holden, Holland, Hopedale, Hubbardston, Grafton, Leicester, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Monson, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Northborough, Northbridge, Palmer, Oakham, Oxford, Paxton, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sutton, Upton, Uxbridge, Wales, Warren, Webster, West Boylston, West Brookfield, Westborough.