By Kristin Fox
At their recent regular meeting, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the annual budget ordinance for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2024. The amendment will increase the amount given to the Mountain Projects non-profit grants by $18,617. The money will be taken from the contingency fund of the county’s budget.
The additional funds will be appropriated for the following Mountain Projects programs and services – Foster Grandparents $2,846; GED program $4,769; Senior Companion $3502; Senior Volunteer $2,500; and Jackson Neighbors in Need $5,000.
Mountain Projects is a community based non-profit organization, founded in 1965 as a Community Action Agency, that provides vital services to the elderly, disadvantaged and general public in western North Carolina. On a daily basis, the Emergency Fund helps Mountain Projects clients resolve short-term crisis situations, with staff helping to gain the client access tolife-changing services. Mountain Projects works with over 40 state, local and federal grants to help people help themselves and make the community a better place to live. Mountain Projects also operates in Haywood County.
At the beginning of the month, Mountain Projects moved into a new office located at 154-B Medical Park Loop, Sylva and held their grand opening last week. The organization shares the building owned by the Evergreen Foundation with another community service organization dedicated to helping individuals and families, the Center for Domestic Peace.
The goals of Mountain Projects are:
Foster Grandparent Program
The Foster Grandparent Program is a federally funded program through the Corporation of National Service that provides opportunities for seniors to impact the lives of children in their community. The Foster Grandparent Program is funded for the seven western counties of North Carolina including Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain and the Qualla Boundary.
Foster Grandparents are individuals aged 55 and over who thrive on direct interaction with children and believe they can make a difference in their lives. They serve as a mentor, tutor, and loving caregiver to children and youth with special needs. Foster Grandparents help children develop the skills, confidence, and strength to succeed in life.
To qualify to be foster grandparents, participants must be 55 years of age or older; must meet income guidelines established by the federal government; care about children and want to help them with their growth and development; must be physically and mentally able to serve; and can serve between 5-20 hours a week.
Senior Companions Program
The Senior Companions Program is a federally funded program through the Corporation of National Service that provides opportunities for seniors to make a difference in their community. The Senior Companion Program is funded for the seven western counties of North Carolina including Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain and the Qualla Boundary.
Senior Companions are healthy older adults that help other adults that need extra assistance to live independently in their own homes or communities. They serve frail older adults, adults with disabilities, those with terminal illnesses, and offer respite for caregivers. Senior Companions touch the lives of adults by assisting with grocery shopping, daily tasks, and providing companionship to those in need. Without Senior Companions, many older adults would not be able to maintain their independence.
To qualify to participate in the Senior Companions Program, individuals are 55 years of age or older; meet income guidelines; are paid a tax-free hourly stipend to volunteer; receive paid vacation and sick leave; may volunteer between 15 and 40 hours a week; and are willing to make a difference in their community.
If individuals want to help another senior stay independent, contact the Mountain Projects Senior Programs at 828-452-1447 or 1-800-627-1548.
Mountain Projects has partnered with Southwestern Community College to have an evening GED class. These hours were chosen to accommodate customers that work, have childcare problems or need transportation. The age limit is 16 years and up. Mountain Projects is a relaxed environment for working hard to reach the goal of getting a diploma. The classes are on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There is no cost to take the class and a light meal and snacks are provided.
The GED starts out with registration to Southwestern Community College. Then a CASSA assessment is given to check reading and math levels. The CASSA will determine how long it will take to complete the GED. If the score is high enough, or with some remediation, the pre-tests are given. There are five subjects: social studies, science, reading, math and writing. All subjects must be passed before taking the GED test. The GED is given once a month at Southwestern Community College.
Jackson Neighbors in Need
The mission of Jackson Neighbors in Need is to provide help to Jackson County residents who do not qualify for assistance from other agencies.
This mission is accomplished in the following ways:
Provide heating assistance, for those in need, during the cold winter months from November 1st to March 31st. Mountain Projects will pay the vendor for electricity, propane, oil and/or wood; space heaters are also provided when needed.
“Bump in the Road” Emergency Funds
This fund assists residents who encounter small economic challenges that they are unable to afford.
Mountain Projects help sponsor this annual “Day of Caring” for residents of Jackson County who are in need of assistance with small home repair projects, building a ramp and/or yard cleaning.
Annual Blanket Drive
Blankets are made available for people in need starting in December. They are available for pickup at the Department of Aging, Department of Social Services, Sylva Mountain Projects and the Jackson County Public Library.
For more information about heating assistance, volunteering or other services, please call 828-331-7177.
Founded in 1965, Mountain Projects was chartered as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and currently serves more than 15,000 people each year. Ninety-seven percent of clients served by Mountain Projects are the working poor, disabled, elderly or handicapped.
As a Community Action Agency, Mountain Projects supports and implements programs designed to improve social, economic, educational, health, emotional and environmental aspects of life for families and individuals in the western mountain region. Those initiatives range from Head Start and food assistance to a variety of programs for senior citizens, and from public transportation to housing rehabilitation.
Some programs provided by Mountain Projects include: meals and food boxes for the food insecure, preschool for low-income families, heat & weatherization for people in need, housing rehabs that remedy unsafe housing, accessibility for seniors and the disabled, affordable housing for the essential workforce, substance abuse prevention services, access to affordable healthcare options, transportation for veterans, seniors, students and the disabled.
For information and stories about Mountain Projects’ work in Jackson and Haywood Counties, visit MountainProjects.org and Mountain Projects’ Facebook page.