The Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation Inc. is asking the community to help in its mission to “empower struggling residents to succeed in today’s economy.”

The private, nonprofit corporation administers programs and provides resources to help people overcome financial obstacles so they can reach important milestones in life, such as finding employment or purchasing a home.

Beverly Carlton, founder and CEO of the corporation, is looking for a new funding source and space for an important program.

OHCEDC partnered with the North Carolina Department of Transportation last year to offer a “Highway Construction and Trades Academy,” in which they provided training in construction materials and techniques to people for free so they could find employment with NCDOT, but the program was not refunded by the state this year.

“This was a popular program, and we still have people on our waiting list, so what we were going to do was step out in faith and do it, and believe that we could get some funders and people to support the project,” Carlton said.

She described the types of participants who have benefitted from the program.

“The people that we’re serving primarily are those who are on probation or parole who need to get a job,” Carlton said. “They can’t get job at these other places. (There are also) people who really do like working outdoors.”

She said of the 30 people who completed the program, 25 went on to find jobs. The remaining five had various health issues that interfered with their ability to work.

“We’re still working with those five to get employment, because they have other challenges,” Carlton said. “Sometimes when people come through (the program), they’re not always ready to go straight to work, so you still have to work with them on some of the issues they may be having.” 

The corporation has changed the name of the program to “Technical Trades Academy,” since it will encompass a variety of trades, such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC work.

The academy will provide instruction in subjects such as construction math, hand and power tool use and safety training, according to a post on OHCEDC’s Facebook page. The program will include a 10-hour OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certificate and core employment skills training in things like interviewing and resume writing.

Carlton said the program will be open to anyone in the community. Applicants will have to pass a “TABE” test, which stands for “Test of Adult Basic Education,” a standardized placement test, according to www.test-guide.com.

“They test in areas of reading comprehension, mathematics and other areas,” she said. “If there’s a need, we help them with remedial education to learn some things. Depending on the job they’re going to in highway construction, they’re going to have to learn how to read blueprints, so we have some blueprint reading classes. We have math classes that are all about measurements, because you have to know the depth, length and width of how you’re going to be laying that concrete or asphalt or whatever you’re working on. We also have people that are doing welding.”

She said local professionals are providing instruction for the participants.

Carlton estimates it will take about $6,000 per month to operate the academy. 

“That includes the classes, the outreach and case management,” Carlton said. “We’re going to be working with local plumbers, HVAC contractors and people that need electricians for apprenticeship-type programs. That amount of money will allow us to continue to manage their cases to help them find employment, housing, whatever their needs are to get them stable. Nobody is dropped once they complete the program. They can continue to come back, and through our case management, we can follow up with them and work through issues to help them reach that level of stability.

“We also help people financially. If they’re homeless, or they’re on probation or parole, most of them don’t have the money to get to a job interview. We have paid for transportation to Statesville for a week or two so people can get working and get their first paycheck. That’s why it takes that much money, because we have a lot of activity going on to support the people to become successful.”

In addition to funding sources, the academy also will need a space to have individuals learn how to use large construction equipment. 

“We can do the basic training where we are, but when we do the tools and the heavy equipment, we just need a place for that to happen,” Carlton said. 

She is compiling a waiting list of interested applicants until the funding comes through. She emphasized how the academy will change lives and positively impact the community.

“What we do helps stabilize our community,” Carlton said. “We’ve had quite a few that have gone through our trades academy who have been homeless or sofa-surfing. When they get that job, that helps stabilize them, so they start supporting themselves and contributing to the tax base. Knowledge is power, so we help them get that knowledge they need to change their lives.”

To learn more, contact OHCEDC at 828-475-4620 or visit www.ohcedc.org.

Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at tgercken@morganton.com.

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From staff reports

The Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation Inc. provides “asset-building opportunites” to area residents who are struggling financially through a variety of programs, including:

» North Carolina Foreclosure Prevention Fund:

TheNorth Carolina Foreclosure Prevention Fund has helped more than 25,000 North Carolina homeowners keep their homes, according to a press release from OHCEDC. The fund makes mortgage payments for qualified unemployed workers, including returning veterans, while they look for jobs or complete job training. Homeowners seeking new employment after divorce or other hardship events may also qualify. People who apply can’t be more than nine months behind in their mortgage payments. 

Assistance is provided as a zero-interest, deferred loan of up to $36,000, or 36 months of mortgage-related payments. Homeowners resume making their own mortgage payments at the end of the loan period. The fund also can assist homeowners who are re-employed after a qualified hardship, but earning less than before and unable to afford their mortgages by reducing their principal balance with a no-interest deferred loan. The mortgage loan is then recast to make the payments more affordable. If the owner continues to live in the home for 10 years, the loan will be considered forgiven and no repayment will be due. 

Beverly Carlton, founder and CEO of the corporation, urged homeowners experiencing financial difficulties to apply to the program soon, since the fund is set to close in May.

» Home-buying Program

“We’re a member of the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency’s Community Partners’ Loan Pool, which gives eligible people up to $20,000 down-payment assistance, which helps make that house payment more affordable,” Carlton said. “We do negotiations with the lender in order to bring that house down to 30 percent of their monthly income, which is what HUD says is an affordable house payment.”

» Home buyers' education class

The corporation offers a free, eight-hour long class on the third Saturday of each month to share information to get people ready to purchase their first home. Those who would like to attend a class must register in advance with OHCEDC.

"The home buyer education class is a certificate program," Carlton said. "The certificate can be used for the different types of mortgage programs available for first-time home buyers."

» Financial literacy classes

The corporation also offers a free 10-hour financial life skills class every second week of the month on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Participants can choose either day sessions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or evening sessions from 6-9 p.m. Students will learn about managing money, building wealth, budgeting, investing and more.

“Financial literacy is the foundation of everything,” Carlton said. “We provide asset-building opportunities, because asset-building opportunities start with employment. If you have a job, you have an asset, because you’re earning money, and then you can buy a home. If you a have a home and you’re about to lose it, then we help you save that home from foreclosure. Building financial capability is helping people set their goals for what they want to do in the future. We’re coaching people, not telling them what to do. We’re encouraging them to find their own path and follow it to achieve those goals they set for themselves.”

Carlton estimates the corporation has assisted approximately 700 local residents in the last four years through all of its programs.

OHCEDC, which used to be based in Valdese, has found a new facility 200C College St. in Morganton. For more information, contact 828-475-4620 or visit www.ohcedc.org.

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