CAPITAL AREA COMMUNITY SERVICES Shiawassee County Coordinator Becky Zemla (left) has been helping new CACS Executive Director Miguel Rodriguez become acclimated in Shiawassee County since he was hired in January. Rodriguez (right) can be seen standing with Zemla at the Shiawassee County service center, at 1845 Corunna Ave. in Owosso, during a recent visit from his Lansing office.

(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)

 

by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

Capital Area Community Services (CACS) is headquartered in Lansing and provides assistance to low-income individuals and families in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Shiawassee counties. CACS offers a wide range of programs and services, including food programs, head start, weatherization services, energy assistance, homelessness programs, housing programs and tax preparation services, among others.

The Shiawassee County CACS service center is located at 1845 Corunna Ave. in Owosso and is led by center coordinator Becky Zemla, who is approaching 35 years at the Shiawassee County service center.

“We are the housing assessment resources center for Shiawassee County,” shares Zemla. “We’re the one-stop for the homeless. This should be the first place they call. People usually have a particular need they hope to address when they come in here, but oftentimes, after we do an assessment they find out that they qualify for additional assistance. A person who comes in to ask about child care may end up finding out that they qualify to receive food assistance, or they may learn about our housing programs or tax preparation services.”

Miguel Rodriguez was hired in January 2018 as the CACS executive director after previously working as a promotions agent with the Michigan DNR. With nearly one year under his belt, Rodriguez has been impressed by how Zemla and her staff are able to connect with their clients and administer the proper form of assistance.

“With the knowledge and experience of Becky and her staff, combined with the support and resources we can provide from the Lansing office, I think it’s the best of both worlds for our clients,” Rodriguez.

As he continues to familiarize himself with the communities within the CACS coverage area, Rodriguez is looking forward implementing his vision.

“Every community is different; it’s not one size fits all,” Rodriguez points out. “Needs vary community to community, so it is important for us to identify those unique needs and offer the resources and services that best suit each of the communities we serve.”

Rodriguez and the staff of the Shiawassee County service center are putting together a community needs assessment survey, which will likely be presented to the public in the early part of 2019. While the Shiawassee County service center currently operates quite efficiently, Rodriguez and Zemla have continued to work to make improvements, and Rodriguez is very optimistic about the future of CACS.

Zemla reports that she and her staff are working to simplify their center’s referral process, which will benefit both clients and local partner organizations, and they are increasing their efforts to collaborate with the many churches, service providers and other community action organizations in Shiawassee County. As Rodriguez explains, “We are always looking to partner with local agencies. Resources are limited for everyone, so the better we can all work together, the better it is for everybody.”

Adding to Rodriguez’s optimism is Shiawassee County’s recent move from the Flint statistical metropolitan area tract to the Lansing area tract, which should increase the amount of funding and support allocated to the Shiawassee County service center.

Among the many services offered at CACS of Shiawassee County, Zemla and her staff would like to remind county residents that they offer AARP-certified tax preparation services, and that the center is also a Michigan Department of Human Services (MDHS) utilities assistance navigator, which Zemla notes is a major benefit for seniors with energy assistance needs. Instead of traveling to the MDHS office in Lansing and battling traffic in the search for a legal parking space, Shiawassee County residents now have the option of receiving the same energy assistance right here in Shiawassee County.

The list of available services offered by the Shiawassee County CACS service center is too comprehensive to include here, so anyone interested in learning more can visit the CACS website at www.cacs-inc.org, call Zemla and her staff at (989) 723-3115 or send an email to shiaor@cacs-inc.org.

CACS: Shiawassee County’s Community Action Clearinghouse was last modified: November 15th, 2018 by Karen Elford