Now more than ever, TRI-CAP needs your help

Guest Columnist

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”  —  Fred Rogers

There has been no shortage of scary things in the national news related to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many people suffering with loss of loved ones, coping with their own or a family member’s illness. Many suffer in silence. Many more have been suffering in a different way long before the pandemic. For various reasons, people in our community have economic challenges. No matter what one’s need is, taking the first step to reach out and ask for help is never easy or pleasant for anyone.  

Despite our local community being a long-standing leader in prosperity, there is a growing population of individuals and families that are looking for people that can help them. 

I couldn’t ignore a recent request to share with you our current situation at TRI-CAP. It is the most humbling of all for our staff and I to be at the epicenter of this storm of scared and needy people whom have had their lives tossed upside down for an indefinite period of time.  And while we quietly (and sometimes frantically) go about our work, suddenly we are touched by someone who has reached out asking how they too can help us.  

While we may not be the “front line” heroes that are saving lives, responding to fires, or driving the ambulance, we are here to restore hope for those who fear eviction from their apartment or home. We are also here for those who’ve found themselves without a job or access to an affordable health insurance plan, those who worry about their utilities being disconnected and those who are just scared and need someone to not only tell them everything is going to be okay, but to show them how they can make everything okay for their young families.  

Our staff can do all of these things and so much more, but not without your help. Yes, it’s true that Community Action Agencies were created by the federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.  But what many people don’t know is how the federal funding has changed over the years. We are not allowed to charge our income-eligible clients a fee and in many cases are prohibited from asking for a donation. That wouldn’t be a problem if we were fully funded to provide the full services. Each service we provide is structured with a different set of financial rules. For example, in order to provide the healthcare navigation service, we are required to raise 40% of the overall budget from non-federal sources. The federal government has always required our Head Start program to raise 25-cents for each federal budget dollar we receive. Thankfully, the Head Start local match can be a combination of dollars and donations of time and materials. Our Retired and Senior Volunteer Program must raise 30-cents for each federal grant dollar received. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I do want you to know how valuable each and every dollar is that our local community contributes to our agency!  Every penny received is used for your designated purpose.  

As you can imagine, our non-profit agency is always in need of local donations. At this time, the need for local support is greater than ever. We’re not even halfway through 2020 and we’ve already seen 4-5 times more requests for rental assistance and assistance with healthcare navigation. And, we know we haven’t seen the tip of the iceberg that lies ahead when Indiana’s moratorium for rent and utility payments comes to an end.  

We are so thankful that the moratorium was extended through June 30 as it will give us some time to get all of our staff safely back into our offices to work with clients more efficiently than we’ve been able to do so with the various telework options we’ve put into place. We’ve never stopped helping clients throughout this whole pandemic. It should also be noted that the only way we’ve ever been able to help someone pay their rent is with the generous donations made by other individuals and businesses in the community.  

Some good news in all of this is that we have received some local funds this week to help specifically with our healthcare navigation service as well as other community needs and we are expecting more utility assistance funds soon. Even better, the new federal funds we’ve received in response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be used to assist clients with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty guideline. That is higher than our current limits of 100-125% in some of our program areas.  So while you’ll see us helping more people than ever, we will still need your local support in donations to keep these federal grants in motion.

Thank you to everyone that has reached in to be a “helper” whether through TRI-CAP, your church, some other agency, or individual gifts to someone in need. You are the bright spots that will be remembered long after the dark storm of COVID-19 is gone. Many want to give anonymously. Please know that no matter how or how much you help one person or agency, your actions will be multiplied by inspiring others to do the same.  

To learn more about our TRI-CAP services, read our client success stories, or make an online contribution, please visit our website at  Donations may also be mailed to TRI-CAP at P.O. Box 729, Jasper, IN 47547-0729.  Please call us with your needs, questions, and comments at 812-482-2233.  And, if you have questions about other local not-for profits that help those in need, please consider contacting the Dubois County Community Foundation for further information.

Thank you for your trust in our agency to change lives, empower families, and improve communities through our health, housing, and education services. It is truly an honor to serve our local community.

Joyce Fleck is the executive director of TRI-CAP, 
an independent, non-profit organization that provides valuable services and assistance to individuals and families, most of whom are low-income.



More on