Eblen Charities, a nonprofit rooted in the heart of Asheville for over three decades, received a $10,000 grant from the Asheville Chamber of Commerce during our 125th Anniversary Celebration. The grant, awarded in September of last year, is designed to bolster Eblen Charities’ impactful Gasoline Assistance Program, specifically aiding individuals in Western North Carolina facing transportation barriers to job access.
Beth Russo, Executive Director of Eblen Charities, spoke passionately about the significance of the grant and the organization’s commitment to making a tangible difference in people’s lives.
“Well, we were thrilled to win that grant. It was a very, very big evening for us,” shared Russo. “We’ve already helped over 90 people (as of 1/16/24) since those funds were awarded to us with this kind of assistance.”
Established in 1991, Eblen Charities has steadfastly supported the Asheville community, offering assistance in various forms, including housing, utilities, medical needs, and transportation. The recent grant has already profoundly impacted the organization’s transportation assistance program, a cornerstone of their mission.
“We help people who are going to job interviews and medical appointments and for folks who might have been hired for a position but don’t get their first paycheck for a few weeks,” says Russo. “And it’s meant to provide practical assistance for people’s transportation needs. We want to make sure there’s no barriers to getting hired for a job or getting a medical issue taken care of.”
Russo emphasized the importance of ensuring the application process for gas vouchers is accessible and efficient, revealing plans for an online platform. “We’re working on this new platform so that people will be able to apply for a voucher online, and then get pretty much immediate information, maybe not within 30 seconds, but within the same day, either get approval or not.”
Russo shared touching stories of individuals helped by the program.
“We have had more than one person who’s like, I’ve got this great interview and if I get this job, I’m not gonna need any kind of financial assistance. And so we want to support that effort. And we couldn’t have done it to the depth that we’re doing it now without the Chamber support and the larger business community, as well.”
The significance of the Chamber’s support and the broader business community is not lost on Russo.
“We’re thrilled with the Chamber support and with the business community’s support because these funds stay right here in Buncombe County. We’ve talked to folks who were struggling to get a child to a needed medical appointment and were worried about the cost of transportation, and it’s a joy to be able to eliminate that worry for them when they already are worried about their child’s health.”
With the awarded grant, Eblen Charities aims to serve an additional 200 job seekers, expanding the program’s capacity to meet the growing demand. The funds have been directly allocated to gas vouchers, allowing the organization to increase voucher amounts and enhance the overall program budget to $20,000. Eblen Charities continues to bridge gaps and provide hope through practical assistance, as a beacon of support for those in need in the Asheville and Buncombe County area.