Outreach center aids Derry's needy
DERRY — Since opening in 2012, the Rockingham Community Action Outreach Center has quietly been making a difference in the lives of people who have fallen on hard times, administrators say.
Rockingham Community Action assists residents in the Derry area through a variety of programs, from fuel and utility assistance to weatherization and financial advice, said Patte Ardizzoni, Rockingham County administrator for Southern New Hampshire Services.
“It’s fascinating to me how much happens and how much long term someone’s life can be affected for the good — very quietly from so many hard working people,” Ardizzoni said Thursday.
A newly released report shows that the center at 9 Crystal Ave. provided fuel assistance for almost 1,900 families to help heat their homes in the past year. Also according to the 2013 annual report, 361 Derry area residents have received assistance in Women Infants Children Supplemental Nutrition and 36 preschoolers have come through the Head Start program. In addition, 77 local residents have been helped with security deposits and/or rent or utility arrearages in the homelessness prevention program, Phil Grandmaison, a special projects coordinator with Southern New Hampshire Services, wrote in an email.
Southern New Hampshire Services purchased the building in 2011, Grandmaison said. The organization renovated it, and the center formally opened in June 2012. Prior to the center, a part-time facility provided residents some help but was limited to fuel and crisis assistance, Ardizzoni said.
That facility, which closed about 10 years ago, only had one employee. Residents who needed additional assistance had to drive to Salem, she said.
Making the trip to Salem could be a challenge for some Derry residents who were already struggling financially. And not having a center in town can be especially difficult for elderly people, Ardizzoni said.
“You run the risk of losing them because they kind of picked themselves up by their bootstraps and all of their courage went into going through your door once,” she said.
In addition to fuel and crisis assistance, the new facility was designed to offer a Head Start program and a number of other services, including WIC and Workplace Development. Struggling residents now have a place to go to where they can sit down and talk to staff members about their immediate needs.
“It’s much more impactful to do that with someone when the resources are literally down the hallway versus telling them they have to go back in their car and go somewhere else, “Ardizzoni said.
Some residents who aren’t in desperate need are also being helped by the center, she said. Instead of needing fuel or other assistance, they might just need help with their taxes or some financial advice.
“There’s so many levels of assistance,” Ardizzoni said.
For more information on Rockingham Community Action, go: http://www.rcaction.org/index.php?page=about-us.