Community Resource Center poised to be one-stop shop for myriad of services

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From left, Donna Klaeger, senior vice president of community services for Texas Housing Foundation Housing Management Corp., and Bessie Jackson, project manager for the Liberty Hill Community Resource Center, visit together in the conference room at the resource center. The conference room, as well as a break room, office space and more are available to the public to use to conduct business. (Rachel Madison Photo)

By Rachel Madison

The Liberty Hill Community Resource Center is working to beef up its services and marketing to make locals more aware of what it can provide to the community.

The Liberty Hill CRC is meant to be a one-stop shop for community services, said Donna Klaeger, who serves as senior vice president of community services for Marble Falls-based Texas Housing Foundation, the parent organization of Community Resource Centers of Texas, Inc., which the Liberty Hill CRC functions under. The Liberty Hill CRC is located at San Gabriel Apartments, which was built by the Texas Housing Foundation.

“You find in a rural community services here and there and across town,” Klaeger said. “Our goal was to put as many services as we could under one roof in one central location, and an apartment complex is a central location. The 30-second commercial is that we’re a one-stop shop for community services. That’s the goal. When you have more agencies in the same place at the same time, the referral network is amazing.”

Klaeger started the Community Resource Centers of Texas, Inc. in Marble Falls in 2004 and partnered with the Texas Housing Foundation for a location for the center. In 2005, Klaeger became the Burnet County Judge and could no longer run the center, but because all the programs she had been working with were still up and running at the Marble Falls CRC, the Texas Housing Foundation agreed to step in and take over.

Klaeger retired from public service three years ago, and was called back to the Texas Housing Foundation last fall to start working with the CRCs again, especially because there are now four CRCs—not just the one in Marble Falls. As Texas Housing Foundation began to grow and put in more apartment communities, more CRCs were added, Klaeger said. Liberty Hill’s CRC was built in 2012 along with the San Gabriel Apartments. There is also a CRC in Llano and another one currently being built in Johnson City.

The Texas Housing Foundation currently has approximately 3,500 units and 40-plus properties in Texas. The Liberty Hill CRC is completely funded by the foundation.

“Our funding comes from the Texas Housing Foundation,” Klaeger said. “We don’t have fundraisers. All of this is paid for as the community service component on affordable housing. We get no governmental funding.”

According to the Texas Housing Foundation’s website, the mission of the Community Resource Centers of Texas, Inc. is to provide delivery of social and public health services to qualified clients provided by non-profit organizations and government agencies. By locating dozens of these agencies in one location, clients can quickly learn about, apply for and receive services that are provided by these agencies.

Bessie Jackson, project manager for the Liberty Hill CRC, believes the center is the “best kept secret in Liberty Hill.” But that notion is about to change, she said, with the addition of several new resources in the coming months.

“We need to put up the flag and let people know we’re here,” she said. “We need to let people know the services we provide and where to go.”

Some of the non-profit organizations with offices already in the Liberty Hill CRC include Georgetown-based Bluebonnet Trails Community Services, which provides resources such as early childhood intervention services and intellectual developmental disabilities services; Texas Workforce Solutions, which provides two computers inside the CRC for members of the community to use to apply for jobs; and Round Rock-based STARRY Counseling, which provides counseling services for individuals, groups and families as well as parenting classes.
Experience Works

Another organization inside the Liberty Hill CRC is Experience Works, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of older adults by helping them get back into the workforce.

“We do this by providing jobs with our host agencies where senior citizens can update skills needed by today’s employers,” said Molly Boyd, recruiter for the Experience Works program. “We are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, have been around since 1965 and are currently active in 30 states.”

The program is specifically for adults 55 and older in Williamson County who are unemployed with little or no income and need training in order to find a job in today’s market.

“We place our participants with our host agencies who will provide that needed training, and they will be scheduled to work 27 hours a week,” she said. “Our participants are paid by Experience Works at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. We are currently just getting started in the Liberty Hill area, and are looking for participants to place, as well as nonprofits to act as host agencies for that training.”

Currently, Williamson County only has six Experience Works employees at various locations. Boyd added that the program is not a job search agency, but rather a way for senior citizens to brush up on their job skills.

“It’s a limited program,” she said. “It’s a four-year program where you’re allowed to update your skills and throughout that time you should start your job hunt. You have to participate in a job search while you’re in this program.”

Leander resident Trudy Lassiter, 82, is an Experience Works employee who has worked at the Liberty Hill CRC inside the San Gabriel Apartments for nearly four years. She said she has gained numerous computer and phone skills while working for the organization.

“Experience Works puts older people back to work,” she said. “I love it here. I take care of the office, answer phones and help people whenever they come in. I like what they’re planning on doing and what they have done. It’s going to be good for folks.”

Klaeger said several more organizations are interested in moving into the CRC, such as the Literacy Council of Williamson County, Operation Liberty Hill (along with a mobile food bank), and the Veterans Services Office of Williamson County.

“Organizations come and go,” she said. “Their funding changes, the state changes the program, they change regions—there are all kinds of reasons why people come and go out of the center.”

The center provides at no cost an office, desk, chair, printer, scanner, fax machine and telephones. Office space can be reserved in half-day increments and depending on how much time the nonprofit needs there, can even be permanently reserved for certain organizations. The CRC also provides a break room and a conference room. Klaeger added that the conference room is open to the public for use just by calling and making a reservation.

Klaeger said the CRC’s main job is to answer the phones when people call and refer them to the right place.

“We provide the space and resources,” she said. “If people call and they need help, we’ll find out what their needs are and refer them to the right organization. We’re not a provider of services, we’re a connector of services. We’re working on a tracking system right now to find out what calls we’re getting the most of, so that we know what kinds of services we most need here.”

In six months, Klaeger said she expects the building to be full of resources.

“It will be a revolving door, but right now we have six agencies in our center,” she said. “We have 23 more spaces available and I expect anywhere between 15 to 30 organizations using our space by then.”

In addition to providing community services, Jackson also heads up numerous charity projects through the Liberty Hill CRC, such as providing hundreds of back-to-school bags for elementary school students or running the center’s Older Adult Rural Services, or OARS, program.

The Liberty Hill CRC is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located at the San Gabriel Apartments at 155 Hillcrest Lane in Liberty Hill. For more information, call (512) 548-5091 or email crcinfo@txhf.org.

Those interested in the Experience Works program can contact Boyd by calling the Liberty Hill CRC.

Rachel@LHIndependent.com

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