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Community Action Organization Turns 'Hardship Into Hope'

By Kelly Church

Rockingham Community Action is a nonprofit organization that supports the well being of senior citizens, families with children and adults who are being forced to sacrifice necessities, including food, medicine and heat in their homes. The organization has been working since 1965 to help qualifying individuals and families, joining six community agencies to create Hampton, NH's Rockingham Community Action (RCA) organization.

The organization's slogan reads, "Turning hardship into hope," something they deliver through their promise to care about the community and helping people help themselves. Some of their programs include: asset development, to help families keep more of their income; childcare services, to help families find affordable care for their children; crisis assistance and support, to help families with immediate food and shelter needs; education and employment, so everyone can find a stable source of income; energy, which offers fuel and electrical assistance.

Rochester Kids

There is Head Start, which addresses education and child development; health and nutrition, offering to improve the overall health of parents and children through healthy food choices; literacy, aiming to improve literacy rates; and senior services, catering specifically to elderly members in the community.

"One of the most important points that I make each year is not to seniors," Patte Ardizzoni, Administrator for Rockingham County, says. "It's to those living in neighborhoods where there may be seniors living, receiving very little income but either unaware or too proud to ask for help. As Yankees, it takes us an awful lot to walk into someone's personal space, but there have been times when checking in on a neighbor has been the decision that saved a life."

This close connection is something that RCA relies on in their day-to-day functions, not only in the field getting help for those who need it, but in their community partners and government allies. Once RCA has helped a family or individual and has reached a better level of stability, RCA helps connect them with NH Works, a work readiness program that improves job skills and experience, and helps match individuals with employers.

Annie's Hallmark Food Drive

"Because of community action's close tie to their communities and resource within, as well as the local Welfare Departments and staff relationships that we work so hard at keeping robust and fresh, we're able to match eligible individuals with specific services and programs that will allow them to achieve stability," Ardizzoni says.

RCA worked for more than 40 years to provide the state with necessary services before being acquired by Southern New Hampshire Services, Inc., another community service agency in the neighboring Hillsborough County. In 2011, after the completion of the merger, RCA reached ? and continues to reach - half of the state.

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