In a year when many people needed extra support due to job losses and illness, the Operation Round Up® program continued to provide grants that made a direct impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in our community.
For over 27 years, PPCS members have participated in Operation Round Up by voluntarily rounding up their monthly energy bills to the next dollar. PPCS member Rosemary Matzek has participated almost from the beginning in 1993. “I remember seeing the call to sign up in the co-op’s newsletter,” said Matzek. “It seemed like a good, painless way to give back.” Matzek stated that normally Operation Round Up adds only about $.50 to her monthly energy bill.
The grants disbursed in 2020 represent diverse needs in the community: food shelves, winter clothing for children, health care and fire services. Three organizations receiving this assistance shared how these donations impacted their organizations.
Assistance & Resource Center
Assistance and Resource Center (ARC) serves clients in the River Falls and Ellsworth school districts. Established in 2008, ARC aids individuals and families, giving them a hand up, rather than a handout. The support PPCS gave ARC in 2020 was earmarked for rent assistance.
“We look at every request individually,” said Ronna Ellis, client services coordinator. “And if we are able to meet the need we do.” Often, ARC’s assistance allows individuals to gain employment or keep their job. For instance, if a person has a job prospect, but can’t afford work boots, or needs gas cards to get to an employment physical, ARC provides that.
“Our goal is to help them meet their immediate need,” said Ellis, “but our clients must also have a plan. They need to be a partner in getting beyond the current issue or difficulty.”
ARC arose from the need to have a coordinated response in the community to people in need, especially those who would approach local churches asking for immediate aid. They have a seven-person board of directors, and 13 volunteers who take phone calls from individuals. In 2019, ARC took 1,100 phone calls, and helped 124 households with rent assistance, 141 with utilities, 316 with transportation, and 37 with other miscellaneous needs. Because ARC has very low overhead, being staffed with all volunteers and no physical office space, $.98 from every dollar goes into client support. Learn more about ARC at their website: http://arcriverfalls.org/.
Pierce County Veterans Services
The Pierce County Veterans Services office provides services for up to 4,000 veterans in the Pierce County area. They are aided with benefits reviews and referrals to community resources. One of the most important benefits they receive is transportation to medical appointments at the VA Medical Center in the Twin Cities.
The Veterans Services received a grant in 2020 that was applied to the purchase of a new transportation van. “Our old van was becoming very unreliable,” said Tami MacGregor, benefits specialist. “It needed a lot of repair that was really beginning to rack up a lot of costs.”
The Veterans Services employs three retired veterans as drivers. They work on a three-week rotation. One of the best features of the new van is that it has two wheelchair lifts. “In the past,” said MacGregor, “we would have to find another vehicle or schedule appointments at different times to accommodate more than one wheelchair.”
Information about Pierce County Veterans Services is available on their website: https://www.co.pierce.wi.us/Veterans Services/Veteran_Services_Main.htm.
Have A Heart, Inc.
What began in 1994 as a facility to provide day care and respite care for kids with special needs has grown into an organization offering multiple supports for families including an adult day program, respite care, and adult family homes.
The Operation Round Up grant they received in 2020 is being applied to renovating their farmhouse which will become another two-bedroom family/group home. They are continuing to fundraise for this project and hope to complete the renovations soon.
Group home placements are difficult to come by in our area. In fact, one of their group homes just had an opening and it was the first one in seven years. The family taking that vacancy shared that they have been searching for over three years for a placement for their child. “It’s a pressing need in our area,” said Courtney Vorwald, executive director, “to find places that provide care and a permanent home where they can be cared for around the clock.”
Although Have A Heart, Inc. receives some state funding for their services, the funds raised through grants and charitable donations has allowed them to continue offering their normal services to clients. The COVID restrictions have forced them to operate at about 25% in 2020. They currently have three gentlemen in their group home and are serving about 10 individuals in the day program.
“We are so grateful for the donation from Operation Round Up,” said Vorwald. “We truly appreciate all the contributions we’ve received over the years. It means we can keep going forward with our mission and that is everything to us.” Information about Have A Heart, Inc., is available on their website: https://www.haveaheartinc.org.
“About 70 percent of our members participate in Operation Round Up. On average, members who round up their bills pay an additional $6.00 annually,” said Nate Boettcher, president and CEO. “Their generosity allows us to offer support to these important programs, which is a true testament to our members’ concern for their communities.”
Rosemary Matzek agrees that the program is very worthwhile. “I have always been impressed with the amount that has been donated to local charities,” said Matzek. “That small amount I give every month when combined with everyone else’s can make a huge difference.” In fact, since the program started in 1993, PPCS Operation Round Up has been able to donate over $480,000 to community programs and individuals experiencing emergencies like house fires.
Thank you, PPCS members! Your generous participation in the Operation Round Up program is truly helping everyone in our communities Live Better.
You can enroll in Operation Round Up through SmartHub under Billing & Payments, or by calling 800-924-2133.
In 2020, PPCS members donated $28,500 to community organizations and one family for a house fire. They also donated just over $8,000 from Federated Youth Foundation for educational endeavors. A complete listing of grants and donations is listed on our website, piercepepin.coop, under My Community.