Genene Mann carefully budgets her paycheck each month, but when the weather doesn't cooperate and her electric bill goes beyond her means, the Weleetka native has found help through the Salvation Army Service Unit.
"I always try to find as many resources as possible," said Mann, who's divorced and has three children. "Many times there's just not enough money. It's stressful on me, but I try not to let it affect the kids."
Mann learned about the Salvation Army while applying for TANF. As a work experience participant, Mann worked as a clerk in the OKDHS Okfuskee County office. The county then hired her as a temporary clerk.
"When I was on TANF, I learned what I needed to know about working in an office," said Mann. "I really enjoy working at the county office."
Mann also relies on community resources to help with her children's school supplies. She receives SoonerCare for her children, food stamps and child care assistance.
"I realize financial hardship doesn't last forever," said Mann. "I have hope that things will get better. I just have to give it time and have patience."
Resources outside of OKDHS are few and far between in small, rural areas like Okfuskee County. Since 1999, the Okemah Salvation Army Service Unit provides emergency assistance for utilities, food, prescription medication or transportation to county residents in crisis situations. Okfuskee County OKDHS staff refers, screens, administers and manages the unit.
Assistance is based primarily on need that arises from situations that are beyond the client's control; job loss, abandonment of the family primary wage earner, fixed income with no ability to work, family member illness or hospitalization or a vehicle breaking down. In fiscal year 2005, 80 Okfuskee County families received Salvation Army services.
Each year, the Okemah Salvation Army Service Unit also provides individual Christmas boxes containing personal hygiene items for nursing home and assisted living residents, as well as most of Okfuskee County's Aged, Blind and Disabled recipients. The Salvation Army offers a free summer camp for foster kids. It also helps with back-to-school backpacks for Okfuskee County children in foster care or receiving TANF benefits.
The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters in Oklahoma City distributes energy assistance only funds (Share The Warmth, Light A Life and Lend A Hand) to local Oklahoma units such as Okfuskee County OKDHS. Unit allocations depend on donations received from utility customers who "check the little box on their bill" and "include a little extra" when they pay.
Every year during the holiday season, the familiar red kettles and bell-toting volunteers ring in donations at local businesses. Since the partnership began in 1999, the Red Kettle Campaign has been organized and run by an OKDHS outreach medical worker. All donations made to the Okemah Service Unit Red Kettles remain at the local unit.
Also during the holiday season, local banks include pre-addressed Salvation Army donation envelopes in their customers' bank statements. Again, these donations remain locally.
- Almost 300,000 Oklahomans received help paying their heating and cooling bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in fiscal year 2005
- More than 1,000 Oklahomans received diversion assistance benefits during fiscal year 2005