Community services

Community Services of the Osceola Council on Aging Celebrated During May “Older Americans Month”

May has been considered “Older American Month” since 1963. This annual observance has become a time to celebrate the many contributions that older Americans have made to enriching the lives of younger generations. The Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) focuses on how best to serve older Americans through its many community action service initiatives.

Historically, the Community Action Plan was created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty” and the advocacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community action agencies are public non-profit groups funded by the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), a federal program that allocates funds to fight poverty. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created the network of agencies to serve low-income populations. Community action remains committed to helping families fight poverty, as evidenced by the variety of programs supporting education, job training, weatherization assistance, and elder care. Additionally, the programs now address issues of supporting older Americans in times of crisis.

Community action programs are funded from multiple sources. For example, the State of Florida contracts with the OCOA to provide utility assistance to low-income residents and weatherization services. Other support initiatives are provided by local grantmaking from the city, county, private philanthropy, and even various utility providers.

At the local level, OCOA Community Action Service programs include:

Utility support: Assistance with energy costs has always been one of Osceola County’s top three needs. As a result, the OCOA has one of the most comprehensive utility assistance programs of any agency in the State of Florida, which includes: home energy assistance for low-income individuals; Home emergency energy assistance for the elderly; the KUA Good Neighbor Program; TOHO assistance program; St. Cloud’s Utilities Assistance Program and Low-Income Home Water Assistance Program

Building Strong Families: This program is designed to prevent families from becoming homeless. Funding is used to provide rapid rehousing services to prevent homelessness through the management of emergency rent/mortgage and utility payment cases. Housing stability has been a constant need in the community of Osceola.

Pantry: The OCOA now houses two Pantry locations. One in Kissimmee and the newest located in St. Cloud. Food pantries serve around 120 to 150 households per week, with drive-thru options implemented since the start of the pandemic.

Bad Weather/Work/Helping Homebound Heroes: OCOA’s home rehabilitation programs provide repair and maintenance services to improve the safety of homes owned and occupied by elderly, disabled, or low-income families.

Health clinic: The OCOA Health Clinic is staffed by volunteers and partner health care providers who focus on prevention, education, referral to specialists, referral to community social services, and management of cases for underserved and uninsured residents of Osceola County.

OCOA’s community action programs are designed to give older members of the community case-managed support services to enable them to live safer, healthier, comfortable and more independent lives for as long as possible. Essentially, a wonderfully positive accent to celebrate Older Americans Month.

Submitted by the Osceola Council on Aging