While Delaware is the wealthiest county in the state, poverty is still a problem.
More than 1,600 families – or about 5.8 percent of the county’s population – live in poverty, according to Rochelle Twining, executive director the the Community Action Organization of Delaware, Madison and Union counties.
“It’s an interesting issue given Delaware’s status as the wealthiest county in Ohio,” Twining told Delaware County commissioners on Monday, June 8. “We represent those who find wealth out of their reach.”
The vast majority – 84 percent – of Delaware County residents served by the agency are employed.
“The image that many people have had in our country for poverty for far too many years is that these people might be lazy bums,” said Twining. “But, in fact, they are not. They are the people that are serving you coffee. They are people that are taking your payment at the gas station. They are the people that are handing you a hamburger at Wendy’s.”
For many of those families, one large and unexpected financial expense “puts them behind the eight ball and brings them to agencies such as ours,” said Twining.
Twining’s organization served 1,268 families in 2014.
“The majority of people coming to our agency are seeking utility assistance,” she said.
The organization also provides a weatherization program, designed to reduce utility expenses by 50 percent.
“Not only is it a benefit to the consumer who lives in that house, it’s a benefit to all of us who wish to conserve energy,” said Twining.
The organization also provides handicapped home modifications and emergency home repairs for senior citizens and has a voluntary family development program designed to create self-sufficiency.
“The whole goal is to help people help themselves and I appreciate that,” said Commissioner Ken O’Brien.