W.A.M.Y. Community Action assistance programs.

A non-profit organization that is focused on fighting poverty and offering emergency assistance, WAMY supports families in Watau, Yancey, Avery, and Mitchell counties. There are several programs that can help clients, including vouchers to buy food or garden supplies, Family Development services, and housing assistance, including weatherization.

The community action agency uses federal government grants to keep their operations running. This means that the exact resources available will change throughout the year. The offices can also be a source of information on public assistance programs, such as LIHEAP grants for paying energy bills, disability benefits, and federal job training sites.

Through the Weatherization Assistance Program, low-income individuals and families can reduce utility as well as heating bill expenses by making their homes more efficient. After weatherization work is performed, the need to heat and cool a residence is lessened and the comfort and air quality of homes are improved.

  • Technicians screened by WAMY first conduct an energy audit, using diagnostic equipment to identify imbalances in air infiltration and areas of heat loss.
  • After that has been completed, contractors from the local Watau or Avery County region evaluate health and safety conditions, such as gas leaks, carbon monoxide hazards or moisture problems.

Based on the results of the audit indicated above, technicians then install cost-effective, energy-efficient fittings as part of weatherization. The programs will also offer free education on maintaining  efficiency is also part of the service.

Applicants must satisfy guidelines established by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in order to qualify, however this community action program prioritizes lower income elderly and/or disabled individuals and families with children.

W.A.M.Y. Community Action Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) provides financial assistance to qualified, disadvantaged households through two subsets. They include Subsidy and Crisis.




The emergency, or Crisis Component of LIHEAP, provides cash grants to qualifying low-income households who are in a home-heating deficit. This financial assistance begins in early January and continues until March 31, or until crisis funds have been depleted, whichever comes first.

The Subsidy Component of LIHEAP offers homeowners or renters a one-time only payment directly to their energy company. This form of financial help needs to be applied to. The process begins in November and ends the second week of December. All applications are taken alphabetically by the last name of the head of the household. Seniors and the disabled can apply earlier for this government funded utility bill assistance program.

WAMY is involved in fighting hunger too. The case managers at the offices can direct a resident to a local food pantry or help them apply for SNAP food stamps. Another resource is their garden voucher program.

Low income families in Mitchell, Watau, and other regions can get help during the summer months. WAMY will pass out free garden vouchers to so families can buy seed and supplies to grow their own fruits or vegetables. Other resource offered by the non-profit is food as part of the High Country Community Supported Agriculture program.

Home Repair Loans can be arranged by WAMY. All qualified residents are supported on a first come, first served basis. There may be resources for fixing air conditioning units or repairing appliances. Other support is arranged too. Some homeowners qualify for a deferred or low interest option, if this seems to be a program that can in fact help them.

The main purpose of these community action agency funds are to ensure the home is safe to live in. Then, another use, it to address health or energy efficiency matters. With the guidelines in place, contractors as well as homeowners determine the scope of repair work that is needed.

To apply for this loan program, homeowners must be current on their mortgage as well as property taxes, as the home can't be foreclosed on during this time frame. In addition, there are asset and income guidelines in place. Lastly, in general, the deferred loans are not repaid until the homeowner  ceases to live in the home, such as they sell it or maybe pass away.

WAMY helps homeless and very low-income people who want to work but lack the skills as part of Total Family Development. There is information on both traditional as well as non-traditional employment programs. Working with partner agencies and workforce centers, the agency offers job training and placement assistance. Services include follow-up job coaching, basic education, IT skills training, as well as reading and writing.





While any type of job is better than being unemployed, WAMY has a goal of placing participants in living wage jobs so they can afford their bills and housing in the future. Or is someone is already employed, then the program will have a goal of increasing their incomes by as much as 300% per year.

W.A.M.Y. Community Action will in some months able to to use Emergency Shelter Grant and Community Development Block funding to provide financial help with housing and other needs. They ranges from past due rent to energy costs.

The Homeless Assistance Program provides families with a place to stay at local temporary shelters in Watau or Yancey. For more mid term needs, there is placement into transitional housing in homes located off-site. In addition, the WAMY program provides support services that include referrals, budget counseling, and employment assistance.

W.A.M.Y. Community Action has a few offices in the area. They include the following.

Watauga County  - 225 Birch Street, Boone, North Carolina 28607. Dial 828-264-2421.

Avery County office is at 723 Cranberry Street, Newland, NC 28657. Dial 828-733-0156 for information.

Mitchell County center is at 261 Oak Avenue, Spruce Pine, North Carolina 28777. Telephone – 828-766-9150.

Yancey County WAMY office is at 1040 E. US Hwy. 19E, Burnsville, NC 28714. Main phone: 828-682-6618.



By Jon McNamara

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