Wanted: A voice for low-income families and individuals in Callaway County.
From now until Dec. 30, Central Missouri Community Action is looking for candidates for the low-income board member from Callaway, a position Callaway CMCA Community Services Supervisor Brenda Rose said is very important.
"If you're passionate about stepping up for the rights of low-income families, we're in need of a passionate spokesman," Rose said.
Of Callaway's potential three seats on the CMCA board, she said one must be a public official, one must be from the private sector and one must be a low-income representative; "someone who has experience or understanding of what it's like to be a member of the low-income community, a client or someone who works in that field."
Rose said the role of the board is to "help guide the ship" of CMCA services, which include Head Start, employment and leadership training, energy assistance, home weatherization, Section 8 rental assistance, housing development and income tax assistance.
"The board is the responsible agent for ... personnel, programs, grants," she said. "Their job is to ensure there are adequate resources (for our programs) and manage resources effectively, to do strategic planning and fundraising."
Callaway Eastern District Commissioner Gabe Craighead, who has served on the CMCA board for three years, said one of the most important aspects of the job is determining distribution of funding.
"Whenever federal money comes into the state, we're the ones who agree to the policies on how to spend it, we approve the grants," Craighead said. "It's the administration part. We make sure funds are spent wisely to make sure things are done right."
As the portion of the population that directly benefits from the services Central Missouri Community Action, Rose said it is particularly important there be a low-income representative.
"It's bringing people on to help themselves," Rose said. "They are expected to attend and participate and work on committees."
Unlike the public and private sector board members - who are appointed - the low-income representative is an elected position. Rose said once all the candidates have filed, short biographies and photos will be posted at the CMCA office at 610 Collier Lane, and Jan. 10-13 area low-income residents - those at or below 125 percent poverty level - will vote on who they want to represent their interests for the next three years.
Rose said finding a low-income representative who can remain active with the board has been hard in Callaway County, particularly as the monthly meetings typically take place at CMCA's central office in Columbia (there is mileage reimbursement for travel to meetings).
"It's hard to get there; it's hard to get involved," Rose said. "It's a very responsible position. It's a big commitment."
Craighead said the time and effort invested is well-worth the benefits of involvement.
"The whole mission of CMCA is to power individuals to be self-reliant," Craighead said. "Once you see what CMCA's done for people, the stories you hear ... it lets you see how people can overcome diversity. It's pretty fulfilling."
Information packets including an intent to run card, sample agency budget, resource guide, a history of the organization and a description of services are available at the CMCA office or at the Head Start in Fulton at 1600 Westminster Ave. Applications are due by Dec. 30.