Gov. John Kasich
Gov. John Kasich
VAN WERT - Ohio Gov. John Kasich has declared May as Community Action Month. The goal of the Northwest Ohio Community Action Commission (NOCAC) is to give a face to northwest Ohio's poverty and homeless, as well as to show that the agency is guiding families towards success. NOCAC staff members are devoted to changing lives every day by advocating and creating a path toward economic security to help strengthen local neighborhoods and families.

The theme of this year's National Community Action month is "Community Action 2012: Strengthening Values and Economic Security in America". The month honors community action's solid track record of success, knowledge and expertise helping Americans out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. NOCAC acknowledges the importance of making the American dream and economic equality a reality for all.

NOCAC is a private, non-profit corporation organized in 1965 by a group of citizens attempting to fight the war on poverty. The agency's function is to plan, develop, and coordinate programs and services designed to help low-income families become more self-sufficient. NOCAC is one of 50 community action agencies in Ohio. Van Wert is one of the six-county area served by NOCAC, including Fulton, Henry, Williams, Paulding, and Defiance counties. The agency offers emergency services, publicly-funded child care, Head Start preschool, weatherization assistance, homeless shelters and food kitchens, IDA savings home purchase, education, and a small business program.

While many people generally assume that NOCAC only services families with children, it actually does so much more. A few of these additional services include weatherizing homes, offering grants to make homes handicap-accessible, a soup kitchen, and financial help for those needing electric service reconnection, propane fills, and rental deposits.

A point in time homeless count survey completed in late January of this year showed a count of 108 homeless in the six-county area on any given day. Of these 108 people, 45 were single persons and the rest consisted of families. At the time of the survey, another 489 people were shown as being at-risk of becoming homeless in the next three months. The survey showed that there are many people in need of help here and in neighboring communities.

In one case, the NOCAC sent a weatherization inspector to perform a home inspection. Upon arrival, the inspector noticed the resident of the home was disoriented and having a hard time finding her doctor's number. The inspector put aside his inspection job and helped the woman call her doctor. The resident later sent a thank you letter noting that the inspector arriving for a scheduled inspection saved her life. The weatherization itself just became an added bonus to the help that NOCAC had provided her.
The Head Start and Early Childhood Education preschool program offered by NOCAC offers all enrolled children screenings recommended by Head Start and the Ohio Department of Education. These screenings include a physical exam, dental exam, lead, hemoglobin, vision, hearing, developmental, mental and social-emotional screenings. At times, these routine exams and screens have unexpected results.

In one of the program's success stories, a four-year-old boy in this program who was very quiet and withdrawn was found to have several decaying teeth during a dental screening. The teeth were removed, and two weeks after the surgery, the boy's teachers reported that he was more involved and playing with the other children as if he were a different child. The new quality of life of this child is a testament for the need of the Head Start program in the community.

One client said, "I just don't know how many people could get by without this help. The economy makes it very hard to get ahead. I thank God for the people who help us, they are a blessing."

NOCAC's central office is located at 1933 E. Second St., Defiance, OH and can be reached at (419) 784-5136. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. The office is closed on weekends and holidays.