VIENNA — The Missouri Ozarks Community Action (MOCA) agency soon will have a physical presence in Maries County four times a month in order to better serve the people of the county with the …
VIENNA — The Missouri Ozarks Community Action (MOCA) agency soon will have a physical presence in Maries County four times a month in order to better serve the people of the county with the services it offers. Last week MOCA’s new mobile office van had its “Maiden Voyages,” visiting communities it serves in the agency’s eight-county area. The counties MOCA serves are Maries, Camden, Laclede, Pulaski, Miller, Gasconade, Crawford, and Phelps.
Last Wednesday the mobile office van, which bears the MOCA insignia, was parked along Main Street on the east side of the Heartland Vienna Library branch. The mobile office van will be in Vienna on the first and third Wednesdays of each month and in Belle on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. In Belle, it is anticipated the mobile office van will be parked in the Legend’s Bank plaza on Alvarado Street. The mobile office will be staffed by MOCA personnel from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a lunch break taken from 12 to 12:30 p.m. “We don’t want to be the best kept secret,” Shaw said about MOCA’s outreach efforts in the county. “We’ve never left,” he said.
MOCA Community Projects Coordinators Tony Shaw and Robert Morris, along with Liheap coordinator Kimberly Speer, were the staffers who were in Vienna on the maiden voyage. Shaw said MOCA has not had a physical presence in Maries County for several years. The new mobile van, a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500, will make it possible for MOCA to come to Maries County four times a month. By November, MOCA anticipates having a second mobile van in service and will have regular visits in its counties with them. Shaw said the mobile vans, which cost about $100,000 once they were modified to MOCA’s needs, were paid for with the agency’s CARES Act money.
MOCA’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (Liheap) is the agency’s most well known program. It provides energy assistance to low income families that meet the guidelines of household size and income eligibility. It is available in the summer and the winter. There also is an Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) which is available to families who are in an energy crisis, have a disconnect notice and are unable to pay the bill.
MOCA is the provider of Head Start. There is a Head Start program in Belle.
Another popular program is weatherization for home owners or renters who can use it to replace sealing and insulation, and sometimes windows or even an HVAC system.
The agency does work with housing programs, but not in Maries County because MRPC provides this service in Maries County.
There is a rental assistance program. They also help people navigate a rent and utilities program through Missouri Housing Development Commission called State Assistance for Housing Relief (SAFHR). This program may pay past due rent and three months rent forward. MOCA staffers will help clients fill out the applications.
The MOCA employees provide community services for people in need. “We fill in the gaps,” Shaw said. The agency has CARES Act funding to help get resources to the people who need it.
They do intensive case management such as helping someone find a job, make a resume, or help them sign up for educational opportunity.
Shaw said all of their programs are for people who meet income and household size guidelines.
They provide certificate support for persons with a high school diploma or a GED to go back to school to obtain a trade certification. There are certain schools in the area they partner with. MOCA can offer assistance with the HiSET and GED tests. MOCA partners with other agencies for tutoring. Shaw said the pandemic has put a “damper on this” in-person tutoring as now its mostly online. They hope to go back to the way it was before once it is safe to do so because of the virus. Once a student is ready to take the test, MOCA staffers will help them register and schedule it and also pay for it. The closest test locations to Maries County are Jefferson City and Waynesville.
There is an auto program for persons who are employed, in school, disabled, or low income. With this program MOCA will pay for basic repairs and maintenance to vehicles that are tagged and insured. Bud’s Auto in Vienna is one of the sites in Maries County MOCA works with for the auto program.
County residents who want to utilize MOCA’s many services are invited to come to the mobile van on a Wednesday either in Belle or Vienna. Staff can answer questions and help fill out applications. There is no waiting for forms to arrive in the mail or to be mailed back. The applications are taken and processed as the van has an internet connection through a cell phone. Shaw said face-to-face interaction also helps to develop their relationships with the clients.
Shaw said MOCA staffers are not here to judge anyone. “We are here for them,” the clients. MOCA has served Maries County with helpful programs since the 1970s. And, now with the new mobile van, MOCA will have a physical presence in Maries County.
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