Jannelle Correa, LIHEAP Special Projects Coordinator

If you have ever had occasion to call or visit WCAC’s Fuel Assistance office, chances are good you have interacted with Jannelle Correa, Special Project Coordinator for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

A fourteen-year employee of WCAC, Jannelle is a lifelong resident of Worcester, and one of three siblings raised by her grandmother after her mother passed away when she was just nine years old. As soon as she was old enough to work, Jannelle began doing so to help  her grandmother. She got her first summer job through WCAC’s YouthWorks program as an aide at Rainbow Childcare then a part time job at Memorial Hospital and eventually at a local nursing home which spurned interest in becoming a nurse. Always a hard worker, Jannelle  at one point held three part-time jobs, intent on saving and budgeting to take her further. A graduate of Doherty High School, she attended both Worcester State University and Quinsigamond Community College, before earning her LPN from David Fanning Trade. She worked overnight shifts at a local nursing home for more than a decade before taking a job at Worcester Public Schools’ Head Start program and becoming an active volunteer with the Oak Hill CDC.

The mother of five and grandmother to ten, has instilled a strong work ethic in her own family. “There is a difference between wants and need,” she says. “My grandmother always told us it’s not going to work if you’re trying to live a rich man’s life out of a poor man’s wallet.”

Her volunteer work and commitment to community service within her neighborhood eventually led back to WCAC when she was recruited as a WCAC Board Member, having served on the Family Needs Committee for Worcester Community Connections (which at the time was a program of WCAC before launching itself into its own nonprofit entity.) She stepped off the Board when she was offered a position at the agency and has served with enthusiastic compassion and empathy ever since.

The program’s strict income guidelines and documentation requirements can be challenging, she notes, particularly for households who have never had to use the system before. “People are very proud or embarrassed and believe there are others more in need than them,” she said, adding that COVID made it extra challenging in not being able to meet with clients face-to-face and empathize with their situations.

“I just want to let others know that they are not alone in trying to figure things out in life,” she says. “Everyone has bad times. We’re here to help people pick themselves up and share tools to help them get through life.”

Beyond her work as a veteran member of WCAC’s fuel office, Jannelle also oversees the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. WCAC is one of five organizations contracted with the City of Worcester to administer COVID rental relief. She encourages those who do not owe a whole lot as well as those that may owe more to check out the program which provides up to $3,000 for both rental and utility assistance. The program also works to help negotiate payment agreements with landlords to prevent eviction.

Jannelle also co-chairs WCAC Diversity Equity & Inclusion Committee, working to enhance and improve the agency’s internal workplace culture. “Everybody needs a sense of belonging, being part of team,” she said. “The committee allows coworkers to open up conversations and get to know one another. Often we find we have similar backgrounds and values that we would not have known otherwise. One conversation at a time can break down walls. My grandmother always quoted Maya Angelou – Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

“I find great value in what I can give to someone else,” she said, “I can’t do everything, but I do as much as time allows. Here at WCAC, we are truly looking at the whole person – you are not just a number. Somedays clients love us, somedays clients hate us. Sometimes you want to cry at the volume of need – it can be overwhelming… but we’ll get through it… together.”