The Church and Community Assistance Program is opening a new office in downtown Kissimmee Thursday.
Founded by Kissimmee City Commissioner Olga Gonzalez, the charity connects people in need with services and agencies that could help them.
The organization not only provides referrals but also helps clients with the required paperwork to receive services.
Gonzalez explained one of her recent cases:
A mother goes to jail just before qualifying for the WIC program, a federal nutrition program for women, infants and children.
Her family reaches out to Gonzalez, who then helps them connect with the health department to get the WIC benefits for the child while the mother is incarcerated.
“To some people, what we do may seem minor. But for the person who needs help, it’s a big deal,” said Gonzalez.
She worked with General Motors for 15 years in the Employee Assistance Program, which connects workers with resources, from healthcare to housing.
Her organization seeks to help three groups of people; the working poor, the homeless and senior citizens.
Gonzalez herself was homeless in the early 1980s while working for GM in New York City.
“What happened to me can happen to anyone,” she said.
“We want to help people realize that there is hope out there and there is somebody who can help,” she said.
Gonzalez said she also plans to work with County Commissioners Peggy Choudhry and the Salvation Army to help get people off the streets.
The new office for the Church and Community Assistance Program, which Gonzalez founded more than 20 years ago when she moved from New York to Osceola County, is located on Orlando Avenue and will be open Monday through Friday, including one night per week.
“We think it’s important to be open at least one night so that people who work during the day can come in for help,” she said.
The organization is working with Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to operate a food pantry from the new office, which will also provide space to work with clients.
“We won’t turn anyone away. The only requirement is that the person must be a willing vessel,” she said. We’re helping people by giving them the tools to help themselves. You gotta give a person a rod so they can fish.”
If you want to make an appointment with the Church and Community Assistance Program, call 407-750-6017.