Kingsport Times-News: AppCAA works to help break the cycle of poverty
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AppCAA works to help break the cycle of poverty

Pam Cox • Jul 9, 2019 at 4:30 PM

Formerly known as RADA (Rural Areas Development Association, Inc.), the Appalachian Community Action & Development Agency (AppCAA) was created in 1964 by then President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. The initial service area only included Scott County. Today, however, the service area includes Scott as well as Lee and Wise Counties and the City of Norton, explained Rebecca Dillow, Executive Director of AppCAA.

Dillow explained many people in the service region are familiar with AppCAA’s Weatherization program, which is designed to reduce the cost of heating and cooling in homes in order to make them more energy efficient. The agency, however, offers so much more. All services are free to those who qualify.

Additional AppCAA programs include tax preparation services, financial coaching and empowerment, housing counseling, emergency services, CHORE program, RSVP, New Eyes for the Need, Safelink Cell Phones, after school and summer feeding programs in Scott and Lee counties for youth 18 and younger, indoor plumbing and rehabilitation, a community garden in Lee County, and Hunters for the Hungry in Lee County. Hunters for the Hungry provides up to one pound of processed deer meat per person for families in need living in Lee County.

While AppCAA does provide emergency assistance to help pay bills, the main goal is to help break the cycle of poverty. That is why the financial coaching and empowerment program is such an essential service. “We do provide emergency services and pay electric bills when needed. Often, this can’t be avoided. The ultimate goal is to help our clients learn how to manage their money and make responsible decisions when it comes to purchases and housing,” she explained.

AppCAA also supports the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Scott and Lee counties. In Scott, they manage the program and in Lee County serve as the fiscal agent for the Lee County HeadStart office. Imagination Library provides free books to young children from birth to 5 years of age.

The agency is also responsible for the Christmas Cart that annually provides Christmas gifts to more than 400 area children. In addition, they work with Mountain Empire Community College, Hope House, RACE1, the Appalachian Service Project and many other community partners.

And with the growing opioid epidemic, AppCAA provides education and resources to its clients and their families. “We are not social workers, but we can point our clients in the right direction for help.”

In the last 54 years, AppCAA has numerous projects to its credit. It was instrumental in the development of the Nickelsville Health Clinic and establishment of community centers in Clinchport, Cooper Creek, Dungannon, Prospect and Yuma.

In 1968, AppCAA worked with the Lee County Community Action Inc., Scott County Grower’s Co-Op and Wise County AWARE to establish Southwest Virginia Grower’s Cooperative Inc. The company harvested, packed and marketed tomatoes, peppers and squash grown in the LENOWISCO Planning District. By 1970, the Grower’s Cooperative had 182 members and employed 50 workers during the operating season.

During the 1970s, the agency worked to help attract business to the area and partnered closely with businesses located in the Duffield Industrial Park to create a place that would be ideal for businesses willing to locate to our region. AppCAA also established a sewing factory on West Jackson Street in Gate City.

The agency continues to be a community partner and, in 2001, worked with the Nickelsville Ruritan Club on restoration of the Bush Mill. For these efforts, the Appalachian Regional Commission recognized the program and awarded a $25,000 grant for the work.

A relative newcomer to the area, Dillow has been Executive Director since January. She is proud of the legacy of work performed by the agency and describes it as a “diamond in the rough.’

“We do a lot of good and provide many services to the community that people really don’t know about.”

For this reason, AppCAA will host its first-ever Open House, Thursday, July 11, from noon to 6 p.m. at 175 Military Lane, Gate City, Virginia. AppCAA received a $2,500 grant from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) to cover the expenses for this important fundraising event. Dillow encourages the community to come out and learn about the agency’s services, meet the community partners and support their fundraising efforts.

“The last couple of years have been hard on AppCAA and we are now in a rebuilding phase. Our general fund was depleted under the former leadership and we are excited to be able to offer an Open House for the community to not only learn about our services, but also help us rebuild by placing their bid on some awesome silent auction items. All of the funds raised will go right into our General Fund and help us help our neighbors that need it the most,” she said.

During the Open House, there will be door prizes and a silent auction with great items to bid on. Dillow said visitors can stop by AppCAA anytime during the week of the Open House and place bids on auction items. Participants do not need to be present to win.

For more information, follow AppCAA on Facebook, Instagram or visit their website at https://appcaa.org.

Community contributor Pam Cox is the tourism director for Scott County, Virginia.

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