By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Motivated adults looking to achieve self-sufficiency could get a hand-up from a local nonprofit this summer.
The Economic Opportunities Council of Indian River County is opening up the Rewarding Education through Action in Community and Home, or REACH program, to qualified individuals. Signups must be made in person at the nonprofit's office, representatives said.
Applications will be accepted on June 20, June 23 and June 24 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., said Wendy Grow, education specialist at the Economic Opportunities Council.
The REACH program provides financial assistance for participants toward vocational skills and/or education, such as a commercial driver's license program or completing a GED course, through funding from a state community service block grant and the United Way of Indian River County, Ms. Grow said.
Applicants must be Indian River County residents, head of their household or an individual 18 or older, be no more than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines and be motivated to obtain employment.
In addition to tuition, supplies and books for the education goals of participants, the REACH program may also provide assistance with other living expenses.
The year-long program includes meeting with a case manager for on-going vocational and financial counseling, educational workshops and orientations, said Marlene Edden, a recent graduate from the REACH program.
A large electric bill combined with limited hours at a new job last year put Ms. Edden on a quest to find temporary help to cover her bill and she found the Economic Opportunities Council.
"They were able to help me with my light bill and they also told me that there was a program to help get out of poverty, so I said I would take it," Ms. Edden said.
"They helped me get my GED and helped me learn how to budget. I had a case worker that I reported to, which kept me accountable and we would talk about my monthly goals, how I was saving money and spending money," she said.
"It's an awesome program and goes step by step and they continuously work with you," Ms. Edden said.
Ms. Edden, who has seven children, educates some of them at home and works at night, said the classes have started a conversation in her household about the importance of education and its role in improving station in life.
"My daughter wants to be a surgeon, and this fall, she and I are going to college at Indian River State College together. And my son is doing extensive study so he can start college in January," Ms. Edden said.
Joe Storey also credits the Economic Opportunities Council of Indian River County for helping him out of unemployment and homelessness and into a new career and a new apartment.
"They are a big part of where I am today," said Mr. Storey, an operations supervisor for the local public transportation system, GoLine, and a licensed commercial driver.
The resources available to the needy in Indian River County are excellent, Mr. Story said.
A lot of his help was through the Economic Opportunities Council, the Samaritan Center of Vero Beach and CareerSource, but one of the most valuable tools he learned during his REACH program experience was budgeting and financial planning.
"I've been to a lot of courses through the years, but this one by the council was by far the greatest. They should offer it in schools for students to learn," said Mr. Storey, a single father.
"I can't say enough about the EOC. They invested the money into me in order for me to achieve a goal. Without them, the long road to where I am now would have been very difficult. They are a valuable resource in our community," he said.
During the course of the one-year REACH program, the participants study poverty through the lens of economic class to better understand how society and the economy work.
Participants are required to take several workshops and receive training on employment skills, resume completion and are linked with other community services that could help them obtain their goals, Ms. Grow said.
The Economic Opportunities Council of Indian River County is located at 2455 St. Lucie Ave., Vero Beach. For more information, call (772) 569-1030 or visit www.eocofirc.net.