May has been observed as ‘Older Americans Month’ since 1963. The annual observance has become a time to celebrate the many contributions older Americans have made to enrich the lives of younger generations. The Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) focuses on how to best serve older Americans through its many Community Action Service initiatives.

Historically, the Community Action plan was created as a component of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and from the advocacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Community Action Agencies are nonprofit, public groups funded by the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), a federal program allocating funds to combat poverty. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created the network of agencies to serve low-income populations. Community Action remains committed to help families address poverty as demonstrated by the diversity of programs from education support, job training, weatherization assistance, and elder care programs. Further, the programs now address issues to support Older Americans when crisis occurs.   

Community Action Programs are funded by multiple sources. For example, the State of Florida contracts with the OCOA to provide utility assistance for low-income residents and weatherization services.  Other support initiatives are provided by local funding awards from the city, county, private philanthropy, and even various utility providers. 

Locally, the OCOA’s Community Action Service programs include: 

Utility Assistance:  Helping with energy costs has consistently been one of the top three needs in Osceola County. Accordingly, the OCOA has one of the most comprehensive utility assistance programs of any agency in the State of Florida, which includes: Low-income Home Energy Assistance; Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly; the KUA Good Neighbor Program; TOHO Assistance Program; the St. Cloud Utility Assistance Program and the Low-income Home Water Assistance Program

Building Strong Families:  This program is designed to keep families from becoming homeless.  The funding is used to provide rapid re-housing services to prevent homelessness through case management of emergency rent/mortgage and utility payments.  Housing stability has been a consistent need in the Osceola community.   

Food Pantries:  OCOA now hosts two food pantry locations.  One in Kissimmee and the newest located in St. Cloud.  The food pantries serve roughly 120-150 households per week, with drive-through options implemented since the pandemic began.  

Weatherization/Chore/Helping Homebound Hero’s: The OCOA’s Home Rehabilitation programs offer repair and maintenance to improve the safety of housing owned and occupied by elderly, disabled or low-income families

Health Clinic:  OCOA’s Health Clinic is comprised of volunteers and partnering healthcare providers to focus on prevention, education, specialist referrals, referrals to community social services, and case management to the underserved and uninsured residents in Osceola County. 

The OCOA’s Community Action programs are designed to empower older members of the community with case managed support services to allow them to live safer, healthier, comfortable, and more independent lives for as long as possible.  Essentially a wonderfully positive focus in celebration of Older Americans Month.

Submitted by the Osceola Council On Aging