For almost half a century, the Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission (BROC) has worked to alleviate the symptoms of poverty and help people help themselves achieve economic self sufficiency in Ashe, Alleghany and Wilkes counties.
“Most people do not know we’re here,” said BROC Case Manager Louise Ham.
Formed as result of the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964, BOC was chartered by the state of N.C. in 1966 as a nonprofit community action agency to help low-income residents in the tri-county area.
The agency continues to subscribe to the goal of the EOA, directing its efforts to the elimination of “poverty in the midst of plenty in this nation by offering to everyone the opportunity to live in decency and dignity.”
Ashe County’s Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission serves the community through its Emergency Services Program and other agency projects, including its career closet, seed sharing and weatherization programs.
Emergency services include rental assistance to prevent eviction, electrical assistance to prevent disconnection of service or to reestablish service, heating fuel assistance in the winter months, crisis food assistance and prescription assistance. Community Service Block Grants fund BROC’s crisis outreach efforts.
“Some people have been out of work for a while and don’t have clothing to wear for a job interview,” Ham said. The BROC career closet works in conjunction with the thrift shop to help clients find suitable clothing for job searching.
Through the seed sharing program, families can receive $25 vouchers to purchase seeds for planting home gardens.
The weatherization program focuses on upgrading substandard low-income housing through energy conservation measures such as insulation, caulking and weather stripping.
Eligibility criteria for project acceptance are base on income requirements, but also on clients’ express willingness to pursue self-sufficiency, education and basic job skills. BROC coordinates with other agencies
Through self-sufficiency, I work with a certain number of families, coaching them and trying to help break barriers that are keeping them in poverty, ” Ham said. “In this program, clients have to do their part and I have to do my part to make it work.”
“Due to limited funding, sometimes I can’t do a whole lot, but I can refer clients to other programs that may be able to help meet certain needs.” she said.
Limited funding also means some projects are already at a standstill for the year. The agency’s shoe voucher and prescription medication projects are currently out of funds, Ham said.
Ham is the only paid staff member at the Warrensville office, but works with the support of 27 volunteers. Her office currently serves nine families in self-sufficiency, 40 families in seed sharing, 34 individuals in prescription assistance and has helped 177 families with electrical and heating assistance since August 2012.
While BROC does operate with some grant funding, it also raises money through its Warrensville thrift store, where every item is priced $1. The store is open 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays.
An indoor flea market is also held 8 a.m.-noon every Friday, Ham said.
The agency’s fundraising arm, the We Care Planning Committee, works to raise money for BROC projects with raffles, Chritsmas tree sales and festivals. A yard sale and bake sale fundraiser is scheduled for Sept. 6-7.
Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission accepts all kinds of donations, from clothing to linens to household items and furniture. Monetary donations are also accepted.
“We take everything,” Ham said.
Donations can be dropped off at the BROC office at 169 Warrensville School Road, just off Northwest School Road. BROC is located in the old Warrensville School building across the creek from Jim’s Corner Furniture.
For more information about BROC or to make a donation, call 336-384-4543 or email email@example.com.