Cleveland Utilities, United Way unite with The Caring Place

Cleveland Utilities, United Way unite with The Caring Place

February 24th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Volunteers Aileene Asprodites, left, and Stephanie Baez clean and fold a donated blanket at The Caring Place.

Photo by Paul Leach /Times Free Press.


The fifth annual fundraising event for The Caring Place will feature author and speaker Mike Yankoski, who lived as a homeless man for five months in six cities as part of immersive research for his book "Under the Overpass: a Journey of Faith on the Streets."

When: March 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Cleveland County Club, 345 Kyle Lane NW, Cleveland, Tenn.

Tickets: $55 per person, $300 for a table of eight

Tickets and information: Contact The Caring Place at 423-472-4414. RSVP: By March 4

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - "Project Round Up," a community assistance initiative funded by Cleveland Utilities customers and channeled by United Way of Bradley County, is starting to have an impact on a key program of The Caring Place.

Cleveland Utilities customers already have contributed more than $23,000 toward the Neighbors in Need program with money from only a little over one billing cycle, said Ken Webb, vice president of the utility's financial division.

"There's a lot of potential for Project Round Up to do a lot of good in the community," Webb said.

Project Round Up is a voluntary program that Cleveland Utilities customers may opt out of at any time. Its mechanism is simple: the utility bills of participating customers are rounded up to the next dollar, and the amount rounded up is contributed to the program.

The average annual contribution from each customer who participates is estimated to be $6 or $7.

Webb said Project Round Up has received between 85 and 90 percent participation from its 30,000 customers.

Of the Project Round Up dollars transferred to Neighbors In Need, at least 80 percent must be allocated to assist people with their utility bills -- and not only Cleveland Utilities bills, Webb said. The other 20 percent may be used for housing, medical and other expenses.

Neighbors in Need is not just a program for issuing checks to the disadvantaged, said Chelsea Long, resource developer for The Caring Place. The project's goal is to help people break the cycle of poverty through partnerships with other service organizations to provide personal and professional enrichment opportunities.

"It's not only about money," Long said.

Through a professional case manager, clients' needs are assessed. Sometimes this means referring clients to Reach Adult so they may acquire a GED, or it may mean referring them to the Refuge Community Center to take some computer literacy classes, Long said. During part of that journey, a client family may need some financial assistance with some of their basic needs.

While it is important that The Caring Place treat its clients with dignity and respect and instill in them a sense of self-worth and community, it's also important that their clients' children have heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, Long said.

"The need is so great, we can't do it alone," she said.