Johnda Arledge came to Community Action through word of mouth. “My sister-in-law, Tracy Ison, told me about it,” she said.
As a receptionist, Arledge deals with the public on a daily basis.
“Some of my responsibilities are scheduling appointments, faxing papers, helping payee clients with their checks, helping people fill out food vouchers, and answering phones. My favorite part of the job is helping people,” she said.
Winter is a very busy time for Ross County Community Action due to the Winter Crisis Program. When interviewed, Arledge said she had seen an increase in people coming in within only a few days of the start of the program. Winter Crisis begins on November 1 and lasts through March 31 every year.
“The intake and the need are very needy right now,” she said. “We have more people coming in whose electric bills are going up. “
In her spare time, Arledge spends time with her family and goes to sporting events.
Clara Dixon vividly remembers cleaning school buses for Zane Trace with her older twin brothers at age 14. Little did she know, that she would eventually be driving a school bus and training others to obtain their CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) needed to drive a school bus.
Later, she remembers picking up a little boy and his mother walking in a thunderstorm. The mother told her that her little boy was born with a hole in his heart and was very thankful for the ride to her home.
“The mom said I should apply for the bus driver position they had posted for Head Start,” Dixon said. “I was like, ‘What’s that?’ I knew it had something to do with kids, but not much else.”
However, since Head Start needed a driver, Dixon applied for the job, unaware at the time that Head Start was part of Community Action.
Today, she’s still working for Community Action as the Energy Program Coordinator.
The energy program focuses on efficiency and repair, unlike the Housing Electric Assistance Program, which focuses on helping people pay their electric bills. The energy program includes:
Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) -Helps with insulation and other things to make sure a home is ready for summer or winter
- Electrical Partnership Program (EPP) and
- Community Assistance Program (CAP), which replaces hot water heaters, furnaces, and refrigerators,
- Warm Choice-A similar program to CAP and EPP for those who use natural gas, propane, firewood, etc.
Dixon will have worked for Community Action for 29 years in November of 2016.
“You don’t do it for the money, and you don’t do it for the benefits, you do it for the people that you help,” she said.
Erica Hayes came to Ross County Community Action after seeing a post on Ohio Means Jobs.
As a HEAP aide, she says most of her job involves helping people with forms.
“I help people with HEAP intake and tell people how much their PIPP and HEAP are going to be,” she said. “My favorite part of the job is the social interaction with clients.”
Hayes also said that due to the start of the Winter Crisis Program on November 1, 2016, she has seen a lot more people coming in.
“We definitely have more people and intake since November first,” she said. “Now it’s not just people coming in to reverify their PIPP (a process that also has to be done once a year by everyone on the program), they need help. “
Hayes said she doesn’t have a lot of spare time.
“I’m a college student, and I also have four kids active in sports,” she said. “When I do get some free time, I’m usually in the kitchen baking some cookies or a cake. I also like to read and take pictures.”
Jamie Hendershot, RCCA’s new HR Manager, came to Community Action after seeing an ad online. “I saw it at Indeed.com, I think,” she said. “My background is in jobs like this.” She had previously worked as a manager at a video store and a scheduler for a home care company.
Hendershot plans to put as much of the filing system as possible on computer. “I want to streamline things and take the company in a more modern direction,” Hendershot said. “But I don’t really have a deadline for that. I need a lot more training before I can go in that direction.”
Hendershot graduated from Shawnee State University in 2010 with a degree in Business Administration.
“I like working with people and helping other people do their jobs effectively,” she said.
In her spare time, Hendershot spends time with her family. “Especially my grandparents because they’re getting older,” she said. “I also have a twelve-year-old son in football and 4-H.”
Cynthia “Cyndi” Inglin
Cynthia “Cyndi” Inglin came to Community Action after she had been laid off from Help Me Grow. She began working as a Head Start teacher, and runs the summer food program when not teaching. She has run the program for two summers.
The summer food program currently operates at 15 sites. The primary goal of the program is to feed children from low-income families who had free lunches at school. Another program, called the Meal a Day Program, includes the elderly who may need food assistance
Children are fed a USDA approved lunch with milk Monday through Friday. Weekend meals, including for the elderly, begin on Friday.
The week Cyndi was interviewed, a total of 515 meals were served. Helpers are paid $9.50 an hour to help set out meals, fruit, napkins, and spoons. Meals can also be driven to people’s homes if needed. Food safety rules are always followed.
“The people are so excited when they get this food, because it’s good food and it saves them like $25.00,” Cyndi said.
In addition to the summer food program, Cyndi has a BS in Hearing and Speech Science, was a preschool speech therapist, worked for early intervention for five and a half years as a coordinator, and has taught preschool for over 10 years. She also has a son with developmental disabilities whom she helps.
“I love working with children. It’s very rewarding,” she said.
Tracy Ison came to Ross County Community Action in 2000. She began work as a cook, but has held various positions over the years, including child/family advocate and bus driver. She stayed until 2007, after which she pursued a nursing degree.
Ison returned in 2014 and is currently the Health & Nutrition Manager.
Ison has many job duties both in and out of the centers she works in.
“I keep track of all the kids’ physicals. Immunizations, dental exams, and follow up for dentals and health. I also do hearing screenings and am a certified vision instructor,” Ison said.
Ison is also over the Food Nutrition Program at Ohio University-Chillicothe.
“I am over the kitchen,” Ison said. “I do the menu every month and have to make sure I have allergy info for all the kids who are allergic to food. I also always fill in when needed at other facilities. We deliver meals for all of our outer centers except Mount Logan. My favorite part of my job is helping the kids.
“In her spare time, Ison also teaches CPR and First Aid and Bloodborne Pathogens classes and helps to run the emergency squad in Union Township.
Sharon McComas has been around Community Action since she was a teenager, working in both the summer youth program and the adult work program. Today, she’s the Education Manager for the Head Start Program, having been a Head Start teacher for 16 years.
“I’ve always loved working with children, so it was just natural for me to work with Head Start kids,” McComas said.
Head Start is a government-funded preschool for the children of impoverished families. Like all children, they learn many skills needed for the kindergarten, including:
- Sitting still while listening
- Following directions
- Taking care of their own personal needs
- Recognizing first and last name in print
- Knowing the alphabet
- Counting to 20
- Rhyming words
- Beginning sounds
“Every day we make a difference in our children’s lives by exposing them to things they’ve never seen or done before,” McComas said. “We provide a safe place for them, and nutritious meals. It’s important to give them a positive preschool experience because this is their first introduction to education.”
Sarah Murray came to Ross County Community Action in July, 2016 to do a community based assessment as part of a program that helps disabled people find employment. “I don’t even remember how I first heard about Community Action anymore, but I think it was through my job coach,” Murray said. “We were looking at nonprofit organizations in Chillicothe, and most of them did not have openings at the time we were looking.”
After volunteering for a few months, Murray was hired part-time in October, 2016 as the Web Page Administrator. Her duties include writing staff biographies, writing a quarterly newsletter, keeping lists of low cost events and food/clothing banks, and acting as a liaison between the agency director and the website designer.
Murray graduated from Wright State University in 2011 with a Bachelors degree in print journalism as well as a minor in French, first writing for the Chillicothe Gazette under the byline Joelle Murray. Her favorite part of her job is meeting new people, as well as being able to use her writing to help improve the lives of others.
Murray has enjoyed working for Ross County Community Action.
“From my job interview onward, everyone has been friendly and welcoming, and I’ve never heard of anyone being treated with disrespect. As someone who was unable to find a job with sufficient work experience for six years after graduating college, I truly feel that God has led me here. I’ve enjoyed every minute of helping make Ross County Community Action more accessible to those who need it most,” she said.
In her spare time, Murray enjoys writing, both with an online group and alone, reading and going to a book club, keeping up with her French language skills, and watching TV shows like Last Man Standing, Home Improvement, The Big Bang Theory, I Love Lucy, and The Andy Griffith Show.
Kathleen Olderham is the Family and Community Partnership Manager and Center Manager for Ross County Community Action at the Huntington Center. Her job duties include supervising staff in all areas and being responsible for community/school partnership with families.
Community and school partnerships can be important because the community can provide resources and opportunities for growth that schools and families may not otherwise have access to.
Children whose families are involved in their education can benefit in many ways:
· Adapt well to school
· Attend school more regularly
· Complete homework more consistently
· Earn higher grades and test scores
· Graduate and go on to college
· Have better social skills
· Show improved behavior
· Have better relationships with their parents
· Have higher self-esteem
“I love Head Start,” Olderham said. “It is like a family, and we all work hard to make it successful for our students and families.”
Although she may be new to the Executive Director position, Trina Payne is no stranger to Community Action. She started at the agency in 2002, and has held many positions , including receptionist, HWAPP, HEAP, CSBG, and HR director. In addition, she will graduate from Ohio University in December 2016 with a degree in Applied Business Management.
“What I’m most excited about is being able to provide growth in the agency,” Payne said. “It is my intent to work with other agencies. Trying to put a stop to generational poverty is needed. Situational poverty will always happen, but we need to try to get generational poverty under control. I made a choice to better my family, and (growing up) my family was poor.”
Payne will inform staff of the new direction she plans to take while also building staff morale and making sure everyone is comfortable in their new roles. She also hopes to contract with a grant writer so that more partnerships between RCCAC and other agencies can be formed.
“We work with so many partner agencies to help so many people in the community,” she said.
Payne is a 1989 graduate of Huntington High School. She married her high school sweetheart and has two adult children, a 25-year-old son in the Air Force who also works for the Ohio Highway Patrol, and an 18-year-old daughter majoring in post secondary English at Shawnee State University. She loves to camp, travel, and spend time with her family.
Laura Denise Sanford
Laura Denise Sanford, who goes by Denise, began working for Ross County Community Action in 1979 as a parent volunteer. She was officially hired in September, 1981.
“I was a parent volunteer that had just got off welfare and was working part time. I came to school with my daughter almost every day and loved the program so much I decided to stay!” Sanford said. “ I only had a high school diploma when I started and earned two degrees while working here, an AA in Science and a BSS in child administration.”
Sanford is currently the Head Start Disabilities Manager and has said she has too many job duties to list. Her favorite part of her job is talking to the kids.
“I could interview them all day,” she said. “Kids say the darnedest things! Most of you won’t know where that quote came from. ”
Sanford compared her work experience at Ross County Community Action to riding a rollercoaster.
“You have many ups and downs,” she said. “Some of them are way up and scary on the way down, some are like little bumps in the road, but the ride is always fun in the end.”
In her spare time, Sanford spends time with her family, and also enjoys supporting local musicians.
I love watching my 16 year old grandson play baseball (who by the way was SVC Honorable Mention). I love peering into my 8 year old grandson’s Autistic mind by asking him questions I think he would never know the answer to but always does. I love listening to and supporting local musicians, even though some of them can make my ears bleed. Most of all I love spending time with my family in any way, shape, or form,” she said.
Kandy Tanner began working for Community Action in October of 2006. Previously, she had worked for both Coke and Bob Evans. She had been a manager at Bob Evans, but the hours were inconvenient for her young family at the time. A friend encouraged her to apply as an aide for the HEAP program.
The HEAP program helps clients have more manageable utility bills. They do this through two programs, Summer Crisis and Winter Crisis.
To be eligible for Summer Crisis, one must be income eligible and either have a person over 60 in the household or have a doctor’s note that electricity or air conditioning must be maintained at all times. The program runs from July 1- August 31 and assists with fans, air conditioning units, and utility bills.
To be eligible for Winter Crisis, one must be income eligible. The program lasts from November 1 – March 31 and assists with propane, natural gas, firewood, electric, and fuel oil.
Tanner also assists with the Percentage Income Payment Plan, or PIPP. PIPP is through AEP and helps clients have more manageable utility bills by reducing their monthly bill amount and applying credit if their bills are paid on time.
She has also helped with events such as the yearly booth at the Ross County Fair, and the Summer Youth Program, which employed 50 young people from ages 16-24 this summer. She enjoys spending time with her family.
Brandon Wood began working for Ross County Community Action in March of 2013. He applied for the job of head start teacher after a family friend saw an ad.
“Working for Ross County Community Action over the past four years has been wonderful. We have a great staff at the Community Action office and in Head Start who work together to do all we can to help the people of Ross County,” Wood said. “I truly believe that I am where God wants me to be and doing what I am supposed to be doing in my life.”
Wood’s job responsibilities include supervising the children at the Frankfort center, planning activities, and making sure the children are prepared to move on to kindergarten.
“We use our curriculum, the state education standards and the Head Start Outcomes to ensure our children get a well-rounded education,” Wood said.
Wood said the thing he loves about his job is working with the children.
“They can make a day all worth it with their smiles and hugs. I believe that the first impressions of school are the most important and I try to make learning fun and enjoyable for my students so they have a positive impression of school,” he said.
In his spare time, Wood enjoys performing and traveling with the Dynamic Mention Drum Corps from Circleville, Ohio.
“2017 will be my fifteenth year with them,” he said.
He also loves riding roller coasters and visits Cedar Point and Kings Island several times a year.
“If you can’t find me in the summer, I am more than likely on a roller coaster somewhere,” he said.