When individuals visit Ralls County NECAC in New London individuals are greeted by volunteer office assistant, Michelle Dean.

*Editor’s Note: This story is an installment in a 13-week series highlighting volunteers and organizations that benefit from United Way funding in the Hannibal area.

Throughout the area, NECAC, the Northeast Community Action Corporation, a United Way Agency, works to empower people and improve communities by assisting disadvantaged individuals to rise above poverty.

Each county in Northeast Missouri has a NECAC office where the County Service Coordinator works to oversee the organization’s programs within that specific county.

When individuals visit Ralls County NECAC in New London individuals are greeted by volunteer office assistant, Michelle Dean. Don Patrick, President & CEO of NECAC, calls Dean the “Greatest Volunteer.”

Through her volunteer work at NECAC, Dean lives out the United Way’s motto to Be the Change.

Dean moved to the Ralls County area six years ago. For the past two years she has volunteered the majority of her time Monday through Friday answering phones, operating the office, and being an assistant at Ralls County NECAC.

“I mainly enter data, make copies, and run errands,” explained Dean, but for LeAndra Bridgeman, the County Service Coordinator in Ralls County, Dean’s work is a blessing.

“Michelle does all the things I can do, but having her here frees me up to do all the other things in the community that we are involved in,” explained Bridgeman.

In Ralls County, Bridgeman is responsible for the implementation of NECAC’s programs. This includes the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which provides energy assistance to individuals in low-income households.

Bridgeman oversees the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides dollars to improve homes and lowers energy bills for low-income families.

She also oversees Home Improvement Grants, which assist low-income homeowners with large expense housing repairs such as making homes handicapped accessible and replacing roofs.

Bridgeman also has leadership roles in many community partnerships including Project Community Connect, the Tri-County Alliance, the Ralls County Back to School Fair, Toys for Tots, and more.

Dean’s volunteer work ensures all of this good for the community can happen.

“Michelle volunteers her free time to help with anything going on in the Ralls County community and is an advocate for clients and a spokesperson for NECAC programs,” said Bridgeman.

The work NECAC does helps keep one individuals living in poverty safe and healthy.

“If there was no NECAC a lot of people would be homeless,” explained Dean. She is on the front lines when individuals come into the office needing help.

“I’ve seen a lot of people in tears, nervous, and scared when they come into the office and need help,” Dean said.

For Dean, who volunteers up to 40 hours a week, this is a way for her to give back. “I know what it is like to be in a tough situation and have to ask for help,” she shared, “I have been in that situation several times.”

Now Dean is able to assist individuals who come into NECAC and ensure their needs are met.

“Michelle is exemplary of the Be the Change motto,” shared Bridgeman. To learn more about the United Way visit http://unitedwaymta.org.

Denise Damron is the Executive Director of the United Way of the Mark Twain Area.