Director offers insight on services done by DICSA

By SANDIE ESSENDRUP

Executive Director

Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency

Sometimes one of the challenges of a non-profit organization is getting the word out about what you do in a community. Advertising and marketing generally don’t make it as a line item in the budget. Therefore, I’d greatly appreciate the opportunity to let the public know who we are and what our 70-plus employees accomplish each year.

The Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency, or DICSA, is a non-profit community action agency serving primarily Dickinson and Iron counties. We have been operating as DICSA since 1989. Our mission is to focus and coordinate all available resources that empower individuals to obtain the opportunities to become self-sufficient.

We are governed by a 12-member, tri-partite board made up of representatives from the public (elected officials), private and low-income sectors of our communities. DICSA is funded by federal, state and local grants, UPCAP, the United Way of Dickinson County, local senior millage and private foundations.

With these funds, DICSA offers services to seniors and families at little to no cost. One of our larger programs is nutrition and that includes meals served in a congregate setting at senior centers and meals delivered to the home bound. Neither of these services requires payment for meals, although there is a suggested donation rate. In the last five years, our center staff prepared, served and delivered 641,510 meals to senior citizens in Dickinson, Iron and Baraga counties.

Local senior millage dollars supplement the meal programs as well as DICSA’s in-home services and Family Ties Adult Center. In-home services allows trained aides to assist senior citizens with personal care, homemaking and respite care so that they can remain living safely and independently at home. Over the past five years, 75,468 hours of in-home care were provided by DICSA in Dickinson and Iron counties.

Family Ties offers caregivers a much-needed break from the challenges of 24 hour care for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Our adult day care center provides a comfortable, compassionate atmosphere where participants enjoy activities, entertainment, meals, personal care and more; 82,128 hours of care were provided in the past five years.

Other DICSA services include our utility and fuel assistance programs which help struggling families and individuals by paying their fuel or utility bills. This Outreach Program, in a five-year period, gave $768,249.75 in direct assistance to local fuel/utility vendors for families in need.

Weatherization ensures houses are energy efficient. Using licensed local contractors, DICSA completed 398 homes in the past five years. In that same period, DICSA put $1,631,925 into those homes and the community. The housing stock in the community is improved, the families benefit from lower energy costs and contractors receive regular work.

Over the past five years, DICSA gave 37,802 door-to-door rides to folks needing local transportation at a very low fee. Our Buzzin’ Around Town vans are wheelchair accessible and rides are available to all ages.

We coordinate two volunteer programs – RSVP, or Retired and Senior Volunteer Program for anyone 55 years or better, and MSSA, or Michigan Student Service Award for high school youth. In addition, we work with the Dickinson County court system to place individuals with court-ordered community service. Combined, these programs’ volunteers gave more than 131,315 hours to more than 40 non-profit organizations, schools and health care agencies throughout Dickinson and Iron counties in a five-year period.

DICSA offers tax preparation at no cost to qualified residents. In the past five years, our preparer helped 973 people file their returns, bringing $447,348 back to the area.

Finally, DICSA has three programs that serve more than Dickinson, Iron and Baraga counties: the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP, and The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP, distribute boxes of food throughout much of the Upper Peninsula. Over five years, we delivered 44,362 food boxes to families and seniors in need just in Dickinson and Iron counties.

Our Supportive Services for Veteran Families, or SSVF, program serves the veteran population with housing and other needs. DICSA covers Ontonagon, Gogebic, Iron, Dickinson, Delta and Menominee counties. In our first year of offering this service, DICSA helped 31 veterans find permanent housing or remain in their current home.

As a community action agency, DICSA employees work hard to reduce the effects of poverty in our community. We carefully follow the regulations and guidelines of our funders to fulfill the purposes of each grant received. With much gratitude, we thank all who have donated or volunteered to help any of our programs through the years. The DICSA staff pledges to continue serving our neighbors in need to the best of our abilities. Please call us at 906-774-2256 or go to our website at www.dicsami.org.