Service Center assists those in need

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Star Photo/Brandon Hicks Director Crystal Dugger inputs information into the computer.

Star Photo/Brandon Hicks
Director Crystal Dugger inputs information into the computer.

The Neighborhood Service Center is one of the agencies in Carter County that works to help people cover utility bills, make mortgage payments and buy medicine.

One way the Center is able to meet those needs is through funding from the Elizabethton/Carter County United Way.

“Without the United Way funding, a lot of the clients who would otherwise fall through the cracks are able to receive the help they need,” said Neighborhood Service Center Director Chrystal Dugger.

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Dugger explained many of the services provided by the Center are funded, in part, by the state and come with very strict guidelines about who can receive aid and who is disqualified.

“We have had clients who were ineligible for programs because their income was $1 or $5 over the limit set by the state,” Dugger said. “We have absolutely no wiggle room in that and have to go by what the state says. The United Way funding allows us to help those people who are in need but did not qualify through the state program.”

The Neighborhood Service Center provides aid for people who are facing the possibility of losing their homes, having their power or heat turned off and who need medical equipment, supplies or  medications that are not covered by insurance. In many cases, clients do not have insurance or do not have adequate coverage to meet their needs, Dugger said.

“There are so many people who are living paycheck to paycheck,” shesaid. “There are people who are one bad or missed paycheck away from being homeless. We want to be able to do all we can to prevent that.”

For instance, clients will come to the Center seeking help with a rent or mortgage payment. They may have received a higher than normal electric bill and can’t afford it on their own, or the client could need denture, hearing aids or colostomy supplies, just to name a few.

The Center’s main request during the winter months is for help with high electric bills according to Dugger.

“Families will have their budget and they will be doing fine, and then they are hit with a $350 or more electric bill,” she said. “Sometimes people just aren’t able to make that, and they need help so their power will stay on.”

The Center does what it can to make the most of the set amount of funding it receives just for electricity, or gas bill assistance. But sometimes that funding runs out before the need does.

“That is where the United Way comes in again,” Dugger said. “We are able to stretch our dollars and help more people because we receive funding from the United Way.”

The Neighborhood Service Center also hosts a commodity distribution every three months to hand out needed food supplies. Clients come to the Center from referrals through other agencies, word of mouth from past clients or by walking in.

For more information, or to make a contribution to the United Way, call 543-6975. The Neighborhood Service Center can be reached at 542-5121.