Whatever, or whichever the maybe, Cleveland and Bradley County residents are again showing why humanitarian outreach means everything to so many people who call this community their home.
In our past, these convictions were in full evidence following the horrific outbreak of tornadoes two years ago on April 27, 2011, and almost a year later on March 2, 2012, when a rogue twister ripped another path of destruction from our county’s southwest corner to the northeast. Then, as now, Cleveland hands and Bradley County hearts reached out to those in need.
Today, many of the same neighbor-minded residents of our hometown community are making a difference in the lives of Cleveland and Bradley County families who are struggling in the face of lost jobs, underemployment, unexpected medical expenses and other personal crises that can happen to any family at any time. All too often such catastrophe is as unavoidable as it is inexplicable.
But a new initiative has surfaced.
It is earmarked for the people. It is made possible by the people.
We speak of Project Round-Up, an endeavor launched in late December that has come together through a partnership involving Cleveland Utilities, United Way of Bradley County, The Caring Place and the customers of the local utility who believe in its purpose.
Project Round-Up is voluntary and it involves the simple rounding up of an account’s monthly bill to the next dollar. In other words, a monthly utility bill that comes in at $35.69 is rounded up — as authorized by the customer — to $36. The 31 cents is placed in a CU emergency fund and then transfered to The Caring Place where social workers carefully screen applicants for emergency support like utility bills, rent, unplanned medical expenses and other relevant basic needs.
Customer response to Project Round-Up has been so favorable that, based on updates from the month of March, the need-minded initiative could potentially double original projections by the end of December.
When the utility, rent and medical support program was launched more than four months ago, Cleveland Utilities senior vice president and chief financial officer Ken Webb saw the potential for raising as much as $100,000 per year based on 50 percent customer participation.
It sounded aggressive, perhaps even unrealistic. Yet, through the March revenue cycle, Project Round-Up had already been gifted — by CU customers — some $57,782.23 which has been made possible by 88 percent participation. At this rate, the CU emergency account could realize almost $208,000 by year’s end.
The beauty is this.
The emergency fund is coordinated through The Caring Place whose social workers work on the front lines of need every day in our community.
The emergency fund carries with it no administrative fees nor expenses. Every cent and each dollar received from utility customers goes directly to assist a Cleveland or Bradley County family or individual in need.
The emergency fund is voluntary, meaning that any CU customer who chooses to opt out of the charitable program may do so simply by calling the utility company. Customer contributions so far have averaged 50 cents per customer per month. By year’s end, this would equate to about a $6 donation per customer per year.
The emergency fund already has aided 83 local families with utility assistance (a $20,796.52 investment) and eight families with rent assistance (a $2,243.70 investment).
Project Round-Up is a prime example of Cleveland and Bradley County residents at their best. It is about what Cleveland Utilities is doing, but mostly about what Cleveland Utilities customers are making possible.
We salute both groups.
We encourage continued support of Project Round-Up and the families whose lives it is changing.