When something or someone has been part of the community a long time, it’s easy to take their work for granted. The South Central Human Resource Agency (SCHRA) is a good example, and I realized that with the arrival of its most recent annual report.

County Executives from SCHRA’s 13-county service area automatically serve on the agency’s Governing Board, and I am its Chairman. Still, seeing SCHRA’s services in black and white made me more aware of the good work these folks do, and I wanted to share that with you.

Former Lawrence County Executive Paul Rosson is SCHRA Executive Director. Agency headquarters is in Fayetteville and there are Neighborhood Service Centers in each county: Lawrence, Wayne, Giles, Lincoln, Moore, Perry, Maury, Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Hickman, Lewis, and Marshall.

Sonja Johns and Rebecca May work with clients at the local service center at 232 North Military Avenue, Lawrenceburg. Many other employees and volunteers, with funds from state and federal sources, help provide the benefits SCHRA brings to this county.

Head Start and Early Head Start

In 2020-21 there were a total of 110 children enrolled in Head Start for ages 3-4 at Lawrenceburg and Iron City, and Early Head Start for children under 2 in Lawrenceburg. There are almost always waiting lists for these programs.

Participation improves a child’s physical and mental health outcomes, and prepares them for school. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Nutrition Program

Kitchens in Hohenwald and Fayetteville prepare hot meals that are served Monday-Friday at 20 meal sites in the 13-county district, including the Lawrence County, Loretto, and Summertown Senior Citizens Centers. Meals could only be picked up at those sites during the COVID quarantine, but congregate meals resumed in July 2021. Volunteers deliver meals five days a week to shut-ins throughout the county.

SCHRA and a variety of funders, including the state of Tennessee and the National Family Caregiver Support Program, provided 39,609 meals in Lawrence County during 2020-21.

Emergency Food Assistance (Commodities)

This program distributes USDA-donated food products to low-income households on a quarterly basis. The value of commodities given away in Lawrence County was $56,725.

Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA)

American Job Centers in Lawrence and other counties are another SCHRA operation. Through them, the U.S. Department of Labor’s WIOA program helps the unemployed learn skills employers need. During fiscal year ‘20-’21, the program served 8,141 Lawrence Countians.

Community Representative Payee Program

The report shows 50 local residents received money management services, provided to those unable to budget, pay routine bills, and keep track of financial matters. A doctor must first certify that the person requires such help.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

This service, funded through the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, gives one-time help with energy costs and are paid directly to the utility company. A total of 794 local households received this help, and referrals to other agencies that could provide more assistance, in 2020-21.

Weatherization Assistance Program

Four homes were made more energy efficient with insulation, air sealing, and inspection of heat/air systems. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency also provides funds for this program.

Homemaker Services

Low-income persons who are disabled but wish to remain in their homes can receive basic housekeeping and personal care services through this program. Local residents received 1,484 hours of these services in fiscal year ‘20-’21.

Protective Service Referrals

People providing the services I’ve described are often able to see when vulnerable adults are abused, neglected, or scammed. Twelve referrals to Adult Protective Services were made in this county, the report states.

Senior Community Service Employment Program

This program is designed to help low-income men and women who are 55+ by providing supplemental income, work experience, training and assistance with placement in permanent employment situations. Eight local residents benefited from the service in 2020-21.

Foster Grandparent/Retired Senior Volunteer Program

SCHRA and the Corporation for National & Community Services give seniors an opportunity to serve as surrogate grandparents in local schools and find other volunteer opportunities. Four seniors participated, but many, many more benefited.

Justice Services

Thirty-two participated in programs provided through this arm of SCHRA. Tamara Robinson is Coordinator of our Recovery Court program and works out of the local SCHRA office. Justice Services include DUI School and an Alcohol & Drug Safety Program.

Community Services Referrals

Finally, 8,330 individuals/households received emergency services, self-sufficiency case management, health assistance, and help accessing other community services. The Tennessee Department of Human Services is the primary funder.

Membership on the SCHRA Governing Board was one of those County Executive duties I didn’t know about when I first ran for office in 2014. My years on that Board, and 2020-22 as Chairman, have educated me about the great value this agency brings to our county and region. I am proud to be a part of SCHRA for this short time, and thank all its employees and volunteers for their hard and valuable work.