On Tuesday, May 6, Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore signed a proclamation that recognizes May 2014 as Community Action Month in honor of the 50th anniversary of community action agencies nationwide.
Part of the proclamation reads: "Concerted Services, Incorporated, which is one of twenty Community Action agencies in the State of Georgia, have made essential contributions to individuals and families in the City of Statesboro, Georgia and throughout Bulloch County by providing them with innovative and cost-effective programs."
Concerted Services Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization originally established under Lyndon B. Johnson's Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to fight America's War on Poverty.
Mary Phillips, Concerted Services' Bulloch County coordinator, has worked with the organization in some facet for 15 years. She has served as coordinator for 10 of those years.
"The idea (of Concerted Services) is to empower people to improve themselves through employment and educational opportunities, to enable a higher base of dignity of life, instead of trying to exist on bare essentials," she said.
Concerted Services offers community programs that assist low-income families, the elderly and children. These efforts include heating assistance, educational opportunities, Nutrition Program for the Elderly, emergency assistance, tax assistance and food pantries. The heating assistance program alone served approximately 1,700 clients this past year.
The Nutrition Program for the Elderly includes the Meals on Wheels program, which provides home-delivered meals for the elderly and homebound, persons and the Congregate Meals Program, in which noonday meals are served on-site on Denmark Street in the multipurpose senior center five days a week. In total, some 120 to 200 seniors receive meals throughout the year but, currently, the number is down because of budget cuts and restraints.
Phillips said from 20 to 25 seniors come regularly and receive meals and help with the aging process, like health and medical issues, and participate in physical activities, arts and crafts and social time.
Concerted Services has a long history in Bulloch County, from its inception in 1965 with an office downtown. The office was housed on Vine Street and then later Church Street, before finding its permanent home in the Community Service Building on Denmark Street.
Concerted Services strives daily to reach its vision, of "investing in lives and transforming communities, one person at a time."
One local woman, who preferred not to use her name for the privacy of her family, praised Concerted Services.
"My mother, who passed away a couple of years ago, had Alzheimer's, and my father is now 91," the woman said. "The Meals on Wheels program is a phenomenal program that brought a hot, nutritious meal five days a week. It helped them out so much — them and me. I work full-time. The staff is so sweet. If my father doesn't answer the door, they'll call me and ask if he's OK.
"Bringing a meal also gave them a person other than family to see during the day, a ray of sunshine," she continued. "Many of the elderly don't have kids nearby. If this program did not exist, a lot of our seniors would be in really bad shape. But they say, ‘Thank you, Jesus; I have food.'"