Rural Homeless Youth Focus of GrantBy Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: February 7th, 2014
Rural youth and their families facing homelessness are not alone in northeastern North Carolina, thanks in part to the generosity of an electric cooperative’s members.
Through its Operation Round Up® program, Albemarle Electric Membership Corp. in Hertford has donated $3,000 to an emergency fund run by 20 local churches that targets vulnerable students in the Perquimans County Schools system.
“It really did touch our hearts that some children in our service area are considered homeless and didn’t have their day-to-day needs met,” said Jonetta Long, the co-op’s liaison to the Albemarle Community Trust.
The need is dire in Perquimans County, where recovery from the recession has been slow and nearly 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-fee lunches.
“We have had more cases this [past] year than we’ve ever had,” among Perquimans County students, said Brenda Lassiter, the school system’s public information officer.
Already, said Lassiter, the fund has prevented one family from displacement.
“This past week, we were bracing for a snowstorm, and there was a family with three kids whose electricity was going to be shut off that day,” said Lassiter. “Both parents had lost their jobs. We paid the $330 electric bill and put them in contact with a social worker who is trying to connect them to resources and will follow up with them.”
The fund’s administrators ministers communicate regularly with the school system’s homeless coordinator to try “to keep emergency situations from happening,” said Lassiter. “Help is out there, but some people don’t how know to make those connections.”
A long-term solution is a must for grantees, said the co-op’s Long. “Because our funds are limited, the board tries to ensure that grants they approve help towards long-term solutions, not just Band-Aid approaches.”
Past projects funded by the 14-year old trust include graphing calculators for students and equipment to help firefighters during rescue missions.