Entering its 50th year, the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) is the largest social services organization in Osceola County providing an expansive array of social programs to meet the many needs of area residents.

Though our name implies services for just the elderly, our scope of support extends to families, disabled adults and the disadvantaged. Our hope is, if we can better support our seniors and/or local families in need, they will manage and cope with future crises and financial challenges.

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic filled us with challenges for each of us, our families, our community, and our staff.

As we, hopefully, approach the end of this pandemic, we are moving forward with hope and faith that we won’t ever have to endure another international crisis. Secondly, we can strive to be thankful for what we were able to accomplish this past year under such constraints.

The OCOA is comprised of an amazing group of dedicated individuals, who make a difference daily for the individuals of our community. Because of those individuals, the OCOA is standing strong while planning for the rest of this year and into 2022.

Luckily, we were able to continue to meet the needs of the community throughout the past year, while having the responsibility of protecting the health of our staff, volunteers and clients. Despite uncertain times, the mission of the OCOA remains steadfast to “provide services which enable independence and self-sufficiency for seniors, disabled adults, the disadvantaged and families in poverty.”

We continued to achieve this mission during 2020 through increased nutrition, rent/mortgage and utility assistance, which supported Osceola County’s at-risk population. In addition, the Council achieved an extraordinary expansion in service provision.

In 2019, the agency aided 113,000 Osceola County residents, though in 2020 we served 217,000, more than doubling the number of individuals we ordinarily assist.

One of the many lessons learned over the past year at the OCOA is creative sustainability. In other words, we have been required to become creative when planning for our organization’s sustainability. We have tackled many issues over the past year while focusing on present and future expansion of necessary social services programs while also managing and recreating the many ways we do fundraising.

In the past, fundraising and/or attaining donations was much simpler. We could solicit the community through mailers and wait for donations to arrive. Recently, it has been increasingly difficult to attain donations, so we have become much more creative in our fundraising efforts.

Due to the transition, and the team of outstanding creative thinkers at the OCOA, we created a fundraiser last year titled, “Win A Car. Help Osceola Residents.” We were thrilled to partner with Subaru America, Inc., to raffle a brand new 2021 Subaru Outback through their national Subaru, Share the Love program.

The car raffle was such a success, we have decided to do it again this year. Thus, we are announcing our 2021 car raffle titled “Christmas in July,” partnering with Mercedes Benz of South Orlando to raffle off a 2021 Mercedes GLA.

The fundraiser will begin Thursday, July 1, with raffle tickets selling at $25 each (unlimited purchasing opportunities), or five tickets for $100 during the first week of July. Opportunities to purchase tickets will be available until the New Year›s Eve drawing, to be held on the campus of the OCOA. We encourage you to purchase raffle tickets to support the OCOA with a chance to win a new 2021 Mercedes GLA.

In closing, Osceola County continues to recover from high rates of COVID-19 infection and an unemployment rate which reached 22 percent at one point. While the community is slowly recovering and infection rates have been greatly reduced, unemployment remains at 8.8 percent, and families who suffered job losses are still struggling from the fallout of financial setbacks.

The Council stands strong to continue to lead our community and support our residents in times like these; thus, we are determined to meet the challenges which lie ahead and provide the leadership needed to safely bring our community back to health.

For more information on the 2021 “Christmas in July” car raffle fundraiser with Mercedes Benz of South Orlando, go to http://osceolagenerations.org/mercedes/.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/councils-corner/
Published Tuesday, June 8, 2021