Originally created 06/04/06

Community action groups are celebrated



Grandmothers.

Longtime workers laid off in massive plant shutdowns.

The man next door whose long career is suddenly ended by a debilitating - and financially devastating - illness.

They are the people who need help from the Aiken/Barnwell/Lexington Community Action Commission Inc. They're not freeloaders milking the system, said Marieann Petersen, its senior administrator.

"These are not people who are not working amongst us or people who are sort of hanging on to a system," she said.

May was Community Action Month. Its goal was to bring attention to agencies that help needy families and individuals - and to the people they serve.

"I saw it as an opportunity to say who these people are who utilize these services and are able to benefit," Ms. Petersen said.

During the month, the community action commission weatherized a Vaucluse home, one of the many services the agency has provided since its founding in 1966. It also assists the needy with paying utility bills, locating housing and obtaining medications.

Last year, the group helped more than 21,000 people, according to its statistics.

"We're at a time when resources just in general are dwindling," Ms. Petersen said. "It's a product of, I think, many things - the war, the country's deficit - more things than I think we can provide for."

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.