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 and LOR Foundation Introduce National “Rural Homecoming” to Celebrate Local Innovation and Opportunity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contacts:
Kinsey Brown, RCAP: kbrown@rcap.org, (202) 800-4127
Korenna Wilson, LOR: korenna@lorfoundation.org, (307) 690-0550

WASHINGTON, DC — (September 4, 2019) Rural communities across the country will celebrate the inaugural Rural Homecoming Oct. 18-20 by hosting events and engaging members of their community as part of a national movement that is rooted in local connections.

#RuralHomecoming was created this year to reconnect people to their hometowns and to kickstart a national dialogue on what being rural truly means. This fall, communities will come together to celebrate and give current and former residents a reason to reconnect with their
hometown and the innovation and unique attributes that make their community so special.

Rural Homecoming was developed by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) in partnership with the LOR Foundation, and today the organizations are launching the program by inviting any rural community across the country to participate, free of charge. Each community will receive a toolkit to inspire and guide communities interested in getting involved, including a social media and communications plan rooted in each community’s plan to participate.

“Rural Homecoming lets each community tell their own story,” said Nathan Ohle, CEO of RCAP. “It provides an opportunity to let communities take back their story and highlight what makes rural America so special by giving communities a reason to open their doors and reconnect people with their hometowns. Rural Homecoming empowers each community to take part in a national partnership with a locally-focused approach.”

“We’re all from somewhere,” said LaMonte Guillory, Chief Communications Officer of the LOR Foundation. “Cities or small towns, coastal or inland, East or West, plains or mountains, the concept of Rural Homecoming allows people to connect with their roots and think about where they came from. It also gives us a chance to talk about the innovation and accomplishments that are happening in rural America right now, of which there are many.”

To access and download the free toolkit, visit https://rcap.org/events/ruralhomecoming/. Follow #RuralHomecoming on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to join the movement. We want to hear from you. What makes your community special?

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 LOR: LOR is a foundation that works to increase prosperity in the rural Mountain West, while preserving the character that defines these iconic places. Together with communities, they revitalize main streets, protect clean water supplies, preserve agricultural land and open space, and improve access to the outdoors and recreation. lorfoundation.org

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.

 

Forging New Partnerships After Hurricane Maria

Surveying the damage after Hurricane Maria, the well area was covered by three to four feet of rocks, gravel and pebbles.

RCAP Solutions and Water Mission Join Efforts After Hurricane María to Bring Clean Water to Rural Communities

By Edwin Vazquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist, RCAP Solutions

San Diego is a small community located in the hills of Coamo, Puerto Rico. With the assistance of RCAP Solutions, the community was in the process of developing their official public drinking water system to provide potable water to their residents. They have been providing water to community members for a long time, but not under the official status of a public water system. Because of this, the water quality has not been regulated for many years. The PR Department of Health, in coordination with Environmental Protection Agency, referred this system to RCAP Solutions to help guide them through the process of developing an official and more reliable system.

The community, with a small donation from the municipal government, drilled a well despite the topography challenges of the area. Their economic restrictions and a lack of technical assistance at the time of construction caused them to place the well between a ditch and a pluvial discharging area. When RCAP Solutions evaluated the situation, we taught the community about the elevated risk of losing the well in its current location and the immediate negative effects that they might face if a heavy rain event occurs.

RCAP provided assistance to help them chlorinate the water and become compliant with the required test schedules. As the system began making positive changes, the catastrophic hurricanes hit Puerto Rico; and Coamo was devastated, along with most rural areas on the island. Hurricane Irma brought rain and landslides to the area, leaving them without communication and in terrible condition. A week later, Hurricane Maria, considered the worst storm in the history of Puerto Rico, took out what little was left. The community lost their well and part of their distribution system. The well area was covered by three to four feet of rocks, gravel and pebbles.

“Everything occurred as you said,” commented Alex Mendez, Community Board President of the situation. “I couldn’t believe this disaster when I saw it, but I remember your words and what you said to us. [The well failed] exactly as you predicted!”

But the challenges are more than predicted because it was not an isolated, local disaster. The islands main power grid was destroyed, and consequently, there is no electric power in the town and the estimated time for recovery is more than four months. The community was able to get the old system online with a superficial water source; a small storage tank and gravity-fed distribution, but without any kind of filtration, disinfection or water quality testing. This was the only choice they had to continue water service for their residents.

After our assessment of the situation, San Diego was instructed to inform the community members about the change of source, the absence of treatment, and the need to boil the water before using it.

In our efforts to provide alternatives to the community, RCAP Solutions contacted Water Mission (WM), a faith-based not for profit organization that seeks to ensure safe drinking water access across the globe. RCAP coordinated a site visit to perform a second assessment with the WM staff engineer, Michael Steele and water samples were taken to determine the kind of treatment needed based on available technical and financial resources. This would allow the team to determine the best course of action and decide whether point of use filters were an option for the community.

Edwin Vazquez-Asencio teaching community members how to use Kohler Water Clarifiers provided by Water Mission and the importance of essential sanitary procedures.

RCAP coordinated the delivery of a Kohler Clarifier provided by Water Mission, an effective filtration system that can purify drinking water without electricity. Created in collaboration with World Vision, iDE, and WM, the Kohler Clarifier filter eliminates over 99% of contaminants.

RCAP Solutions staff, Edwin Vázquez-Asencio, coordinated the assistance and taught the community how to use the equipment including a brief workshop about disinfection and how it provides safe drinking water to the community. He was also able to distribute Aquatabs to the community for additional water disinfection after the filtration process, thanks to the Puerto Rico Department of Health

The Water Mission staff has provided meaningful assistance with many RCAP Solutions supported communities, resulting in a very fruitful partnership. After WM’s intervention during the emergency phase, they are counting on RCAP Solutions support to follow up and assist with the long-term recovery process of these small public systems. As a result, the residents of San Diego have filtered water and are less vulnerable to diseases related to the consumption of untreated water.

This unfortunate disaster has presented an opportunity for this community. For many years, the community as a whole has participated minimally in the administration of the water system, but this crisis has forced them to become better educated about their drinking water and will create a willingness to become more involved in the future.

Finally, the RCAP Solutions TAP is also working with the community in the search for their missing well casing and the recovery of the well pump. They are working hard to recover what was lost and rebuild their community and their water system. RCAP Solutions will guide them every step of the way, to maximize limited resources and ensure the best possible results.

There are no words to properly address our gratitude…

Acueducto Rural Guacio, is a community water system located in San Sebastian Municipality of Puerto Rico. Guacio is a low-income community were 57.9% live below the poverty line with a median household income of $14,463. The aqueduct provides drinking water to 85 rural families, most small farmers of minor crops.

The water system consists of two deep wells and a 52,000-gallon capacity distribution tank in which water is treated with a tablet chlorinator. The drinking water is distributed by gravity to all members and the community charges a flat rate of $20 per family per month for water consumption. The RCAP Solutions Technical Assistance Provider (TAP) assisted Guacio by helping submit a proposal that would provide funds necessary for the installation of individual water meters.

With this improvement, the community was in the process of shifting from a flat rate charge to one based on cost per consumption. The TAP assisted the community by helping to set the new payment structure, but the project was put on hold due to damage created from Hurricane Maria. The system suffered several broken pipelines due to landslides, but were able to rapidly repair and replace them. Since there was no electric power to operate the system, they tried to operate it with a generator, but it was damaged, and the community was without water service for more than 3 weeks.

Due to the emergency, RCAP Solutions was assisting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Health in completing drinking water assessments in rural areas. After performing Guacio’s assessment, RCAP was able to provide and install a new generator with assistance from the EPA, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Water Mission, another nonprofit organization with a focus on clean water solutions.

As a result, the community was once again able to operate the water system and provide safe, clean drinking water to the entire community. They were incredibly grateful for the work RCAP Solutions offered, and their partnership with Water Mission in providing the generator and bring power to the water system.

 

“Today, the 19th of October, we would like to give thanks to RCAP Solutions and Water Mission for recognizing and prioritizing the need in this area. We are a small non-profit community water system (Non-PRASA) that provides water to 86 families. We are well organized and well managed and have been successfully providing water for many years. For the last month, to keep our system open and serving our almost 90 families, we had to manually throw water into our distribution system to keep things flowing without the electricity that normally runs our pumps. We are very proud that we kept our system going since many other systems with similar issues were closed. In the last three days it has been a miracle that RCAP helped us to overcome a month of extreme sacrifice and get our system back to running normally. Thank God for RCAP Solutions and what they have done to help us–there are no words to properly address our gratitude.”

– Teresa Torres Quiles, from Aqueducto Rural Guacio, San Sebastian municipality of Puerto Rico.

Click here for more information on our REACH Out to Puerto Rico & USVI Campaign.

RCAP Solutions Selected as Hannaford Cause Bag Beneficiary

RCAP Solutions, Inc. was selected as a beneficiary of the Hannaford Cause Bag program for the month of November.

The Hannaford Cause Bag program is designed to support local nonprofits through the sale of their reusable Hannaford Helps bag.

RCAP Solutions, Inc. was selected by Hannaford store leadership as the November beneficiary of the program at the 21 Timpany Boulevard, Gardner, MA Hannaford store. For every Hannaford Helps reusable bag with the good karma message purchased at the Hannaford Store in Gardner, MA during the month of November, RCAP Solutions, Inc. will receive a $1 donation.

“This is an exciting opportunity for RCAP Solutions as we kick off our holiday season giving campaign,” said Karen A. Koller, President & CEO. “Our focus this year is to raise funds to help Puerto Rican hurricane victims. With this initiative, we’re providing an opportunity for the greater Gardner area to support those in the U.S. Caribbean territories as they struggle to rebuild their lives and stabilize their future.”

The funds raised will be divided into two distinct categories. The first will be directed towards the immediate need of providing emergency housing and support services to those who have chosen to resettle either temporarily or permanently in Massachusetts. The second will be deployed over the coming months to assist with reconstruction and economic recovery projects to those on the island of Puerto Rico.

“RCAP Solutions is uniquely positioned to help those who have been devastated by the recent hurricanes,” continued Koller. “With our housing efforts in Worcester County and a seasoned technical assistance team in Puerto Rico, RCAP Solutions is ready and able to meet the needs of those who so desperately need our vital services.”

RCAP Solutions has set a goal of raising $20,000 during the holiday season to support these two important initiatives.

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.

Established in 1969, 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 a comprehensive nonprofit community development corporation that works with communities of all sizes to address a broad range of needs. RCAP Solutions is part of a coordinated nationwide network with an integrated, multi-faceted approach to delivering high-quality services customized to each community’s unique requirements. For more information, please visit http://www.rcapsolutions.org/.

For more information on the Hannaford Cause Bag program, visit hannaford.bags4mycause.com.

Imagine a Day Without Water

With all the division in our government, it is easy to forget there are some policy priorities that actually cut across party lines and geographical boundaries. Constituents may have different opinions on health care and tax reform, but they have a lot in common too. They get up in the morning and brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and make coffee. Many of them commute to school or work. They travel with their families on summer vacations and for holidays. They buy groceries and eat at restaurants.

When it comes to the essentials, we really do have more that unites us than divides us, which is why the majority of Americans want the federal government to prioritize investing in infrastructure. Earlier this year, voters were polled on what they wanted the federal government to focus on for a legislative agenda. By a double-digit margin, investment in infrastructure was the most important topic above any other issue. Two thirds of voters said so. And an astonishing 82 percent of Americans said water infrastructure needed to be a top priority. Eighty-two percent of Americans can’t even agree on what day of the week it is!

But if you think about it, water unites all of us. Of course people say it should be a priority. Can you even begin to imagine a day without water? It isn’t just your personal use of water – brushing your teeth, flushing your toilet, taking a shower – though those rituals are vital. Water is also essential to a functioning economy. What is a college campus or a hotel supposed to do if there is no water? They close. How can a restaurant, coffee shop, or brewery serve customers without water to cook, make coffee and beer, or wash the dishes? They can’t. And what about manufacturers – from pharmaceuticals to automobiles – that rely on water? They would grind to a halt too.

An economic study released by the Value of Water Campaign earlier this year found that a single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. But investing in water infrastructure, unfortunately, has not been a priority for decades. The federal government’s investment has declined precipitously, leaving states, localities, and water utilities to make up the difference. Which means it is on localities to raise taxes, or for utilities to charge water rates that can pay for the massive infrastructure system of pumps, plants, and pipes. And the truth is, communities across the country have let those systems deteriorate for far too long.

We saw the tragedy in Flint, Michigan where thousands of residents were affected by tainted water supplies. Water systems in other communities are under threat too, and millions of Americans live in regions that completely lack water infrastructure.

There is no doubt about it – a day without water is a crisis. That is why we are joining with hundreds of groups across the country for Imagine a Day Without Water, because we want people to pay attention to our water systems. This country can do great things, and if 82 percent of Americans agree on something it must be important. Water is a public health issue, it is an economic issue. No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water supply. Let’s demand better, and make sure no American ever has to imagine a day without water again.

 

RCAP Staff Finally Arrive Home in Puerto Rico

Pictured from left: Josefa Torres-Olivo, District Director of Puerto Rico & U.S.V.I.; Edwin Vazquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist, Community Resources; and Juan Campos Collazo, Community Development Specialist, Community Resources.

RCAP Solutions staff members were finally able to return home to their families in Puerto Rico after being in the states since Monday, September 18, before Hurricane Maria hit later that week. The three Puerto Rico based staff members were in Massachusetts for an all staff meeting and were then stranded in Florida for ten days awaiting a return flight to the island.

The following email message went out just before getting on the plane:

“Just to let you know that we are leaving Florida in a couple of minutes. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers, it’s going to be an emotional day when we finally get together with our families. We will stay in contact if possible! A long journey ends and, a new one will start today. Please keep us in your prayers for strength and health so we can help others and raise from the adversity as we are good people and stronger than ever!”

Our thoughts go out to all those in Puerto Rico, the U.S.V.I. and the many others as they recover from the crippling effects of the recent hurricanes and other natural disasters. For almost 50 years, RCAP Solutions has been a vital resource to those in rural communities when they have critical need for assistance. We’re working with our staff and partner agencies in those areas to assess the most pressing short term and long-term needs. In the coming weeks, we’ll be outlining new initiatives that will provide funds and assistance to those in need as they work to rebuild their homes and communities.