DCS will soon extend the reach of its One Stop program to Kent County, with a new office scheduled to open soon. We have enjoyed a productive relationship with the Kent County government. Plans call for staffing in the afternoons, to help clients access conveniently DCS' wide variety of transportation and assistance. The office is on Chestertown's historic main square, on the second floor of the building shown here.
CAMBRIDGE – The future of regional transportation remains in question following Tuesday’s meeting of the Dorchester County Council, at which council members and officials of Delmarva Community Services, Inc. were unable to reach a funding compromise. The council has linked DCS’ withdrawal of support to its South Dorchester senior satellite program – where 18 individuals are registered – to county contributions towards DCS’ fleet of 70 buses which serve the general public and the disabled on the Mid- and Upper Shore.
In Dorchester alone last year, nearly 200,000 rides were completed. In a June 22 letter to DCS, Council President Jay Newcomb wrote, “…we would like to receive notification as to when the Golden Hill Center will reopen based on this fiscal year funding.”
Dorchester County’s level of support for DCS’ transit and care for the aging is well below that of the three other counties served by the agency. Dorchester’s allocation this year to transportation is $20,507, with $45,000 going to the senior centers. According their websites, Talbot this year is allocating $90,500 to transportation and $163,155 to the senior center; Caroline has $75,000 for transportation and $46,362 to the senior center; and Kent has $94,419 for transportation and $100,804 to the senior center.
In relation to their total budgets, this represents .12 percent for Dorchester; .36 percent for Talbot; .29 percent for Caroline; and .46 percent for Kent. The council cut support to DCS in fiscal 2011 by 50 percent, forcing the non-profit agency to reduce its Cambridge and Hurlock senior center operations to three days a week each. There was no money, however, to run the South Dorchester satellite, which up to that point had been funded solely by DCS. Meal service and a single staffer were subsequently withdrawn from the satellite.
On July 3, the council rejected DCS’ compromise offer of reopening the site for two days a month. At that meeting, Councilman Rick Travers cast the only vote for compromise. In the current fiscal year, the council has divided its $65,507 contribution, specifying $15,000 each for the two senior centers and for the satellite. The remaining $20,507 would go to fund medical transportation.
By specifying the use of the funds, however, the county has prevented DCS from using the money to leverage matching state and federal grants critical to the continued operation of the entire transportation system. “We needed to put the bulk of the money into transit,” DCS President/CEO Santo Grande said.
DCS Finance Director Cathy Frey said, “This designation of $15,000 for each site removes our flexibility.” Councilman Newcomb questioned the original decision to withdraw all support to the satellite, saying “It’s just so hard to cut the seniors.”
Seniors from the program told the councilmen that they very much looked forward to attending the meetings once again with DCS support. They continue to gather periodically at the site, provided by a local church.
On Tuesday, Mr. Grande presented DCS’ most recent compromise offer, stated in a July 13 letter to County Manager Jane Baynard. Mr. Grande wrote, “Our agency is willing to provide three days per month service to the DCS, Inc. South Dorchester satellite program during the months of September through May, (nine months). I would again like to remind you that the service during the summer is very difficult to provide because of a shortage of staff due to vacations, the cost of fuel and food. This compromise supplants our original desire to serve South Dorchester only two days per month for twelve months. I believe this proposal is significantly different and very generous in lieu of our original proposal to eliminate service to South Dorchester. Please remember that the key to quality senior services to the seniors of Dorchester County is the ability to provide them with safe and reliable transportation.”
Nancy Hastings of the South Dorchester Good Neighbor Project suggested that DCS offer 42 days a year, possibly with no hot lunch as a means of cutting expenses. Mr. Grande pointed out that meal service is an integral part of senior services. After more than an hour of sometimes vigorous discussion, Councilman Travers supported the 42-day plan, adding, “I feel like we’re much closer than we have been.”
“If we don’t get this worked out, you don’t get the money you need, you don’t get transportation, nobody gets where they need to go,” he said. Councilman William Nichols called for compromise while noting that the county has had its own state funding drastically reduced. “We’re going to have to meet in the middle,” he said. “We lost $4 million on a $54 million budget.”
He also cited the cost of teachers’ pensions and an impending drop in tax revenue following what he expects to be lower state property assessments. “If everybody thinks it’s bad now, wait until next year,” he said. “I’m not crying, I’m telling you how it is.” Council members and DCS officials agreed to discuss the issue further prior to the council’s next meeting on Sept. 4.
CAMBRIDGE – We are fortunate to have seven new employees who have joined us recently, bringing with them specialized skills that will help Delmarva Community Services, Inc. to move forward in the years ahead.
Jeff Connors - There is some excitement surrounding Mr. Connors’ arrival - anyone who has spent time with an uncooperative computer will be glad to know Mr. Connors is our new Information Technology specialist. “I’ll be maintaining the network and the desktop workstations,” he said during a conversation on his first day. “I’ll have input on purchases and acquisitions.” Mr. Connors comes to us from a former computer contractor at DCS. He is retired from the U.S. Army and enjoys shooting sports, as well as playing guitar in his church’s spirit band. His job at DCS will allow him to do just what he enjoys, as he circulates through our facilities, keeping the computers running smoothly. “I just like working with computers,” he said. “I like working with different people. When you’re in IT, you meet everybody.”
Katie Clendaniel - Coordinator of Housing and Community Development Katie Clendaniel comes to us from the Easton Main Street Program, where she was staff liaison for the Affordable Housing Program. She also worked with community grant programs for the town. Now that she is with DCS, she said, “I’ll be helping with grants and the new senior center project,” as well as identifying other funding sources. Ms. Clendaniel recently bought a house outside Secretary. “I’ll be giving it some TLC over the next couple of years,” she said. She and her dog Millar enjoy the quiet, rural setting of their new home, where there is plenty of wildlife to observe, as well as opportunities for boating and bike riding.
Sandy Russum - Administrative Assistant Sandy Russum joins the office team in Cambridge, where she will work closely with CEO Santo Grande and Hennie Hayden. Ms. Russum previously worked at Lane Engineering, a civil engineering and surveying firm, where she was office manager and project manager. When she is not busy at work, she has plenty to do close to home in the Neck District, where her husband is chief of the fire company and she is treasurer. In her spare time, Ms. Russum enjoys reading and going to the beach.
Antioney Holmes - Laurel, Delaware native Antioney (Tony) Holmes is a residential one-on-one caregiver. In his short time with DCS, Mr. Holmes has already caught on to the spirit of the organization. “The people here are really cool,” he said, adding that he enjoys “just being able to help somebody.” Thinking of the developmentally disabled individual cares for, Mr. Homes said, “They say he’s been better since I’ve worked with him.” During his free time, Mr. Holmes enjoys basketball, movies and music.
Medayashe’ Lawson - Residential Coordinator Medayashe’ (Shay) Lawson is responsible for making sure people in group homes have the services they require, including transportation and medical needs. He also works to give the developmentally disabled individuals opportunities to integrate in their communities. Mr. Lawson, who is from Prince George’s County, earned a degree in Psychology from Bowie State University. It was during his junior year there that he discovered an interest in working with the developmentally disabled. He said he enjoys “being able to help individuals who really need somebody’s support. It makes me feel good because they really need assistance and they appreciate it.” Mr. Lawson likes to listen to music, as well as play basketball and video games.
Johnette Lawson - Johnette Lawson was away for a while, but now the 11-year DCS veteran is back with us, working for individuals with developmental disabilities. “It’s my first love and I’m back,” she said. Deputy Director of Residential and Day Services Lawson discovered her vocation while studying for her undergraduate degree in psychology, when she had an internship with individuals with special needs. “I’ve always been interested in case work,” she said. Ms. Lawson noted that she is pleased there is a new emphasis on self-determination for the developmentally disabled, adding that she likes “seeing the successes of the people we serve.” Ms. Lawson enjoys reading, travel, collecting elephants and especially hanging out with her grandson.
Dave Ryan - Marketing Specialist/Travel Trainer Dave Ryan joined the One Stop Office team during the spring. His responsibilities will include keeping the public informed on DCS’ many services and activities, as well as helping new customers learn to ride our buses. “We have such a great team here,” Mr. Ryan said. Teaching clients to use public transportation is an effective way to help them maintain their independence and enjoy life. He especially enjoys driving folks to and from doctor’s appointments. “I get so much satisfaction from directly helping people,” he said. Mr. Ryan coaches track and field and weightlifting at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School. He likes cooking and music.
CAMBRIDGE – Homeowners in trouble have somewhere to turn when the bills start to pile up. “If I could just get people to come in, even they’ve missed only two payments,” Housing Counselor Gloria Cornish said in her office at the Community Action Center on Goodwill Avenue. The center is a branch of Delmarva Community Services, Inc. (DCS). Also available on the site are rental assistance, emergency utility aid, a pantry and other facilities.
Ms. Cornish works to keep local residents in their homes, teaching them not only how to deal with mortgage companies, but also how to avoid further trouble. DCS does not charge a fee for her expert advice. Home foreclosure is a widespread problem. According to www.realtytrac.com, in June of this year, there were 1,399 foreclosures under way in the state, or one out of every 1,700 housing units. Ms. Cornish said a situation can go from bad to worse when disreputable companies learn of a homeowner’s late payments and offer what seems to be a solution.
“They are scamming companies,” Ms. Cornish said. “They will send a letter that looks very official.” “For a fee, they say they will modify your mortgage,” she continued. “If you have to pay a fee, you should be skeptical.” Rather than get mixed up with a shady company, Ms. Cornish said a homeowner should contact the Community Action Center at the first sign of trouble. “What we do at that point is help them to realistically look at their situation,” she said.
What some homeowners don’t realize until it is too late is that there is a clock begins to tick when a payment is late. A loan goes into default after two or three missed payments. Then in one or two months, the homeowner will receive a notice of intent to foreclose. After 45 days from that point, an Order to Docket is issued. This is the official beginning of the foreclosure process. Delaying action can make a homeowner’s task even more problematic. “If a person is three or four months behind, there must be full payment,” or a payment plan agreed upon, Ms. Cornish said.
Partial payment no longer solves the issue. “They will even send back a month’s payment,” Ms. Cornish said. Considerations such as lowering an interest rate, delinquencies amortized to the end of a loan, extension of a loan and lawyers’ fees can be overwhelming to a person already in financial difficulty. Ms. Cornish helps the homeowner to look at all the factors and to make a reasonable arrangement with the lending agency.
“I spend a lot of time training people what to say when they speak to mortgage companies,” she said. It is critically important, she added, that homeowners call her when they still have options. “These are intelligent people, they just don’t understand the lingo of the mortgage company,” Ms. Cornish said. “All they need is a break.”
The Community Action Center is located at 1000 Goodwill Drive in Cambridge. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Ms. Cornish can be reached at 410-901-2996 ext. 14, or email@example.com. Similar services are available in the Lower Shore from ShoreUp in Salisbury at 410-749-1142 or firstname.lastname@example.org and in the Upper Shore at the Maryland Rural Development Corporation in Greensboro at 410-482-2585.
CAMBRIDGE – The One Stop Office at Delmarva Community Services, Inc. is now a Maryland Access Point, staffed and ready to help seniors and the disabled to find the care, support and services they need. The program is operating with state funding through Maintaining Active Citizens (MAC), the area agency on aging.
“There are so many support services out there that some people don’t know where to start,” said MAC’s Director of Maryland Access Points Teri Davidson. “There is no income limit. We help people across the board.” There are currently 10 Access Point offices open throughout the state. Officials hope one day to have one in each county.
Staff are trained to help individuals to assess their care needs, including physical and mental health, mobility and household tasks. Clients then about their options and how to access the care they need, including financial assistance. To contact the Maryland Access Point in Cambridge, call 410-221-7600.
Former news reporter and writer, Dave Ryan works with Delmarva Community Services, Inc. in Marketing and Travel Training Services.