RCAP Solutions Receives USDA Disaster Assistance Funds for Puerto Rico Communities Affected by Hurricane Maria

Contact: Maegen McCaffrey, RCAP Solutions

978-630-6714, mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org

Washington, DC (September 10, 2019) – The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and our northeastern regional partner RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce the receipt of disaster assistance funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for three rural communities in Puerto Rico. These communities were badly affected by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

The communities receiving assistance are: Acuedouctos Barrio Guayabota Yabucoa, Inc.; Pozo de Agua, Inc.; and Comunidad Sector Los Gomez, Inc. The three communities combined received $169,571 in federal assistance from USDA.

“2017’s Hurricane Maria created a monumental shift in how we think about disaster recovery,” said Karen A. Koller, RCAP Solutions President and CEO. “We were fortunate to have the first boots on the ground as our organization worked around the clock to assist communities and assess the tremendous damage done to Puerto Rico’s small water systems. We applaud the USDA for providing the necessary resources for the revitalization and rebuilding of the Island. Access to safe and clean drinking water will only become more important as we see continued climate change. Creating sustainability for the long term in the Caribbean will continue to be an ongoing priority for our team, who lives and breathes their vitally important work at RCAP Solutions.”

Acueductos Barrio Guayabota Yabucoa is in Yabucoa, the eastern region of Puerto Rico. This water system serves 600 families, and several small businesses and community organizations. The water system is still severely affected by Maria and without power. The funding they received will provide generators and lab equipment needed for the system to increase compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Pozo de Aqua is in Caguas, the central mountain range of Puerto Rico, and provides drinking water to approximately 183 families. The water system needs extensive repairs from damages caused by Maria. The funding they received will replace pipes, wells and other equipment and help prepare the system for any future disaster.

Comunidad Sector Los Gomez is in the central eastern part of Puerto Rico. Prior to Hurricane Maria, the system provided drinking water to 60 families, but the system lost power for six months following the disaster. The USDA funding will allow the community to replace damaged equipment and purchase a new generator. Because Maria damaged the water tank and well, the community is planning a second phase of funding to evaluate soil conditions to determine if next steps are needed to ensure the system is safe for all citizens.

“Even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria came through Puerto Rico, our team has been working with some of the smallest, most remote areas across the island. The tremendous support that our team in Puerto Rico provided to these communities was critical in securing these funds for three of the island’s hardest hit and lowest capacity areas,” said RCAP CEO Nathan Ohle. “The success each community had in securing these funds is exactly the reason the RCAP network is working to build capacity in small communities across the country and is a testament to the incredible work the team at our partner RCAP Solutions is accomplishing every day.”

About RCAP:
RCAP is a network of nonprofit organizations working to ensure rural and small communities throughout the United States have increased capacity to drive access to safe drinking water, sanitary wastewater, economic development and disaster recovery that leads to economic prosperity. To learn more about this work visit: rcap.org.

About RCAP Solutions:
Established in 1969 as Rural Housing Improvement, RCAP Solutions’ mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families and the communities in which they live. RCAP Solutions is an integrated community development organization serving the rural northeast, Caribbean, and Worcester county region for housing assistance. RCAP Solutions is the Worcester County affiliate of The Regional Housing Network (RHN) of Massachusetts and the Northeast affiliate of the national Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) Network based in Washington D.C.

Exciting News! Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag Program

We are so excited to share that RCAP Solutions has been selected to be a part of the Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag Program, which is designed to make it easy for customers to contribute to their local community while supporting the environment.

For the month of September, each time a $2.50 reusable Community Bag is purchased at the Hannaford located at 21 Timpany Blvd, Gardner, MA 01440, $1 will be donated to RCAP Solutions. This is a great way to raise awareness, support the environment and fundraise for our cause.

Let’s get started! We can begin by spreading the news to our friends and family. Call, send emails, and post on social media. The more people who learn about the program and purchase the Community Bag during the month of September, the more money we will raise.

To learn more about this program, please visit hannaford.bags4mycause.com.

RCAP Solutions is on the Move!

RCAP Solutions is on the Move!

We are expanding into our new headquarters, the home of the Worcester County Housing Consumer Education Center located at:

191 May Street, Worcester, MA 01602

Our Worcester office will be closed to walk-in traffic from Wednesday, August 21 through Tuesday, August 27, 2019.

We will be open for business on Wednesday, August 28, 2019 at our new location.

During this week, we will be offering only one RAFT Screening:
Thursday, August 22 from 9-11 AM at MOC, 49 Nursery Lane, 2nd Floor, Fitchburg.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause; however, staff will be available via phone and email during this period.

Our phone number, 800.488.1969, extensions and email addresses will remain the same.

Please update your contacts with our new address.

We look forward to seeing you at our new location.

For full press release announcement, click here:  http://bit.ly/RCAPMove

Press Release: RCAP Solutions Relocating Headquarters

RCAP Solutions Relocating Headquarters

Move allows organization to expand services to a growing customer population, while reengaging with its rural roots.

RCAP Solutions, the Gardner and Worcester based non-profit, is pleased to announce that the organization will be moving its headquarters to 191 May Street, Worcester, MA on August 28, 2019.

The headquarter relocation is part of a strategic plan to expand services to satisfy the increasing demand for improved community assistance. These services include safe and affordable housing; clean water, wastewater, and infrastructure programs; economic and workforce development; and education and training.

RCAP Solutions’ new headquarters will also serve as the home of the Worcester County Housing Consumer Education Center. The Center provides homelessness prevention and counseling; management of over 360 affordable apartments for families, the elderly and disabled; residential loan programs; financial wellness and workforce development programs; and the Housing Choice Voucher Administration of over 2,600 section 8 vouchers. In addition, the Center manages over $28M in pass-through funds throughout the central Massachusetts region.

The Gardner corporate office will move to the new Worcester headquarters this fall, along with the consolidation of several field offices currently in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. This integration will result in the creation of the northeast office of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), which will service its rural community constituency with technical assistance, community funding programs, and environmental services through the national RCAP program, centered in Washington D.C. (www.rcap.org).

The opening of this new location will jump start the next generation of RCAP Solutions’ enhanced services, and will embrace the strategic sustainability of the future, as the organization celebrates its 50th Anniversary in the spring.

“This is an exciting time for RCAP Solutions as the demand for our services continues to increase,” said Karen A. Koller, RCAP Solutions President and CEO. “The organization is going through an extensive transformation that will positively impact our constituents across the northeast. We’re embracing our rural roots, as we were founded in 1969 as Rural Housing Improvement.”

“While we are moving to the second largest city in New England, it’s important to remember that we are surrounded by rural communities,” said Koller. “Bringing our rural staff together under one roof allows for a more collaborative customer service approach, and the consolidation of our offices gives our new headquarters stronger brand recognition.”

RCAP Solutions has directly serviced Worcester for over 30 years, with its current address located at 12 East Worcester Street. The expansion plan provides increased intake areas; enhanced classroom and meeting space for training and workshops; and computer terminals for clients to access information and supportive services. The location will serve as a center for comprehensive assistance for those in need.

191 May Street is the former site of Reliant Medical Group, which offers 21,000 square feet on two floors. The previous leases totaled 12,000 square feet. This increase allows the organization to combine two offices into one headquarters location with additional square footage, and the resulting increased efficiencies and expanded services for a stronger program delivery system. Matthew Mayrand, Vice President of NAI Glickman Kovago & Jacobs and Vice Chair of the RCAP Solutions Board of Directors represented RCAP Solutions in leasing the property from Chacharone Properties LLC.

“I cannot say enough about Matt’s attention to detail and assistance in representing RCAP Solutions in the lease of this property,” said Koller. “Jim Chacharone and his team at Chacharone Properties have been incredible to work with in meeting our very specialized needs as a customer service organization along with a tight timeline to move into the space. As a federally funded organization, we do all we can to keep our administrative costs low. This space proved to be the best and most affordable option to meet the needs of the 70 staff members as they provide vital services to thousands of constituents who will visit our office in the coming months.”

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.
Established in 1969 as Rural Housing Improvement, the RCAP Solutions mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families and the communities in which they live. RCAP Solutions is an integrated community development organization serving the rural northeast, the Caribbean, and the Worcester county region for housing assistance. The organization has been helping people and communities with a wide range of technical and supportive services for 50 years. RCAP Solutions is the Worcester County affiliate of The Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts and the Northeast affiliate to the national RCAP (Rural Community Assistance Partnership) Network.

 

2nd Annual RuralRISE National Entrepreneurship Summit to take place in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Pine Bluff, Arkansas (September 17, 2019) – A coalition of partners is pleased to announce the second annual RuralRISE Summit, a national event focused on building rural entrepreneurial ecosystems, driving economic prosperity, and supporting doers and innovators in rural communities across America.

From September 17 – 19, rural leaders from across the country will gather at the Pine Bluff Convention Center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to address both the challenges and opportunities facing rural entrepreneurs throughout the United States.

“From rural Alaska to rural Appalachia, entrepreneurship and innovation span America’s rural communities,” said Joe Kapp, President of the National Center for Resource Development. “RuralRISE brings together rural leaders from across the country to share their expertise and experiences to help new rural businesses launch and their ecosystems thrive.”

At this event, attendees will have the opportunity to actively participate and collaborate with other entrepreneurial leaders from across the country in order to seek out practical, scalable, and replicable solutions to drive real results in rural American communities.

“Ultimately, the goal of this conference is to transform rural communities and create opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship to take place.” Says Nathan Ohle, Executive Director of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). “Innovation is in the DNA of rural communities, and we are excited to help raise the voice of entrepreneurs in these areas across the country.”

For more information and to register, please visit: www.ruralrise.org

HCEC Workshops Cancelled Until Further Notice

RCAP Solutions’ Housing Consumer Education Center workshops are cancelled until further notice. This includes all online workshops as well as our First Time Homebuyer and Financial Wellness Workshops.

Please note this will not affect our scheduled RAFT Intake hours on Tuesday and Friday from 9:00 to 11:00 AM at our office located at 12 East Worcester Street, 2nd Floor, Worcester or our RAFT Screening Walk-In Hours at Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC) at 49 Nursery Lane, 2nd Floor, Fitchburg every fourth Thursday of the month from 9:00 to 11:00 AM.

If you need immediate assistance, please call 800.488.1969 or email hcec@rcapsolutions.org.

¡Taller en una Caja!

RCAP Solutions Holds First Spanish “Workshop In A Box”

As part of our ongoing efforts to serve diverse, rural communities, RCAP Solutions held its first all-Spanish workshop in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico in June. This interactive workshop, which has been administered by our Technical Assistance Providers in English on a regular basis, helps operators and board members identify areas for improvement that are critical to success at their utility. The workshop focuses on ten key management areas of effectively managed water utilities, which make up a framework for a complete and well-rounded management approach.

The workshop materials, which were originally prepared by the USDA and the EPA, had been translated into Spanish by FEMA, RCAP Solutions, and the EPA, respectively. Due to the success of this first workshop, a local EPA staffer who facilitated the translation has requested additional workshops across the island, including a “Train the Trainer” session.

Among the more than two-dozen attendees were participants from eight different systems, including one from the municipal government, as well as Mr. Julio Chevres – a loan officer from the USDA Rural Development office in Caguas. RCAP Solutions’ six Technical Assistance Providers stationed in Puerto Rico also welcomed Sarah Buck, Director of Regionalization at our national affiliate, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership. Sarah helped our TAPs facilitate the training.

In addition, Yabucoa Mayor Rafael Surillo stopped by to thank the attendees and RCAP Solutions for their hard work. Mr. Surillo had previously requested technical assistance from the USDA after the devastation from Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. Both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still feeling the effects of these storms, and RCAP Solutions continues to help communities mend their water infrastructure and administer solid waste clean-up.

Sarah Buck (Director of Regionalization, RCAP Inc), Yabucoa Mayor Rafael Surillo, and Josefa Torres-Olivo (Director of District III, RCAP Solutions)

To view all of the photos of this event, check out our Facebook page. Photo Credits: Carlos Velazquez-Figueroa & Sarah Buck

RCAP Solutions Plans and Participates in the 27th Annual New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival

RCAP Solutions also sponsored the event, which was attended by over 400 fourth-graders.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau recently held their 27th Annual Fourth Grade Drinking Water Festival at the Manchester Water Treatment Plant. The event, which took place during National Drinking Water Week, aimed to heighten the awareness of water resources and help students recognize water’s relationship to other resources.

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

The festival was sponsored by the New Hampshire Drinking Water Coalition in conjunction with the NHDES, as well as other organizations, including RCAP Solutions. New Hampshire State Lead, Erick Toledo, was a member of the planning committee. More than 400 students from 11 different schools participated. Operators, scientists, consultants, artists, and environmental educators from public water systems, non-profit organizations, and other agencies joined together to share their expertise.

In addition to education displays and exhibits, the event also featured age-appropriate activities such as a water poetry competition, live music, and storytelling – all related to water quality, conservation, erosion, the effects of pollution, and more.

RCAP Solutions and other environmental health professionals were not the only ones exhibiting; the NH state-level Water Science Fair gave students the opportunity conduct research, create an exhibit, write a report, and present their findings to a panel of judges at the festival.

When asked about why it is important to engage the youth about these topics, Toledo said, “They are the future leaders, educators, researchers, scientists, and maybe even operators.” He continued, “They have the energy, the curiosity, the ability to do great things, to develop projects and articulate ideas. Their brains are like sponges of knowledge.”

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

RCAP Solutions’ Massachusetts Homeownership Collaborative Seal of Approval Renewed

Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association Approves Renewal Application

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce that the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) has renewed the organization’s application for the Massachusetts Homeownership Collaborative Seal of Approval, effective through June 30, 2021.

The application, which was reviewed by CHAPA’s Collaborative’s Selection Committee, confirms that RCAP Solutions meets the criteria that has been established by the Massachusetts Homeownership Collaborative for the provision of pre-purchase homebuyer education and counseling services to low and moderate income households. The Homeownership Collaborative, which was formed in 1996, is an initiative managed by CHAPA that supports and promotes homebuyer education.

As an agency that has received a Seal of Approval from the Homeownership Collaborative, RCAP Solutions must adhere to their Code of Ethics, listed here. In addition, when providing homebuyer education classes targeted to those with low and moderate income, RCAP Solutions must cover the required information about the homebuying process; information which is determined by the Collaborative.

The purpose of administering these programs “is to educate and counsel prospective homebuyers to make informed, voluntary decisions regarding the homebuying process.” RCAP Solutions also has agreed with the Collaborative to provide transparency in regards to where our funding sources for these classes come from. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact our Housing and Consumer Education Center at hcec@rcapsolutions.org.

RCAP Solutions holds First Time Homebuyer Classes at the Worcester office almost every month. To view and register for an upcoming class, please visit our HCEC Events Calendar. To view the full letter from CHAPA and to read the full Seal of Approval, click here.

Free Water Operator Training Takes a Hands-On and Holistic Approach

This February, members of our state-side community resources team held a free operator training in Vermont. The training, which focused on disinfection and water quality monitoring, spanned four hours and gave attendees the chance to collect and test samples.

Mark Johnson, RCAP Solutions’ State Lead in Vermont, explained that “The class combined important theoretical concepts on disinfection with hands-on chlorine residual and coliform sampling exercises.”

This training, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, enabled Vermont operators to earn Training Contact Hours or THCs. These TCHs are accumulated so that water system operators can renew their certification, something that needs to be done every three years.

In addition to the hands-on experience, attendees were grateful for the networking opportunities, with one participant telling us, “Talking with Mark and other operators was informative. Good presentation.” Johnson continued on this, “Even for the most seasoned operator, the opportunity to improve on skills and compare technique with other operators is invaluable.”

Attendees hone their chlorine residual analysis technique and learn how to use both low and high range for analysis. High range chlorine analysis is not commonly practiced by operators, but it is an important skill for them to have if needed for emergency disinfection or to respond to a chlorine overfeed situation.