HAPCAP – The Hidden Gem Of Hocking, Athens and Perry Counties

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Quick: What organization in Southeast Ohio employs hundreds of workers and is responsible for tens of millions of dollars in expenses? Ohio University? Athens City Schools? While those are large organizations, HAPCAP would probably not be one of your answers.

If you’ve ridden on Athens Public Transit, you’ve been a client of the Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Program. But it is responsible for operating more than the transit system. The organization touches thousands of residents.

In addition to operating transportation systems in Athens and Logan counties as well as GoBus,

HAPCAP runs

  • the Southeast Ohio Food Bank
  • a summer feeding program
  • meals-on-wheels
  • Head-Start
  • family day care
  • housing and community development
  • a home-repair program
  • a home buyers’ assistance program
  • a weatherization program
  • the Home Energy Assistance Program
  • youth programs
  • learn and work programs

While HAPCAP  isn’t a household name, the organization employs 226 area residents, according to HAPCAP Executive Director Kelly Hatas.

HAPCAP’s service area extends to Hocking, Athens and Perry counties. But the Southeast Ohio Food Bank, which operates out of its food and nutrition division, touches a total of 10 counties distributing 4,752,649 meals each year to people struggling with hunger.

While HAPCAP is well known to those it serves, many aren’t aware that the organization offers other services or that it runs the program they use. Making the community more aware of HAPCAP’s work is one of the goals of Jessica Stroh, HAPCAP’s director of community service.

“If you’re not in it and you’ve never been in it, and your job doesn’t involve it, then how would you know?” she said.

A better awareness of HAPCAP could result in increased funding allowing the organization to serve people in the region, she said.

One of HAPCAP’s missions is helping families escape the cycle of poverty. But Hatas says sometimes even HAPCAP’s best efforts aren’t enough.

And because transportation is a big part of that cycle of poverty with people needing reliable ways to get to work to be able to pay their bills, HAPCAP operates transit systems in Athens and Logan counties.

HAPCAP is responsible for four transportation services in its service area:

  • GoBus
  • Athens Public
  • Athens On Demand Transit
  • Logan Public Transit

These services have become essential to the members of these communities with HAPCAP seeing a 394 percent increase in the number of annual passenger trips, going from 65,769 riders in 2013 to 325,175 in 2016.

A crowd gathers to watch the Ohio UniversityHomecoming parade on Saturday, October 20, 2018, in Athens, Ohio.
GoBus making an appearance at the Ohio University Homecoming Parade, on Saturday, October 20, 2018, in Athens, Ohio.
Athens Public Transit at the Mulberry and Baker stop in August, 2017, in Athens, Ohio. Most bus routes connect at this stop, making it easier for students to travel.
An Athens On Demand Rider in January, 2018, in Athens, Ohio. Athens On Demand offers transit to elderly and disabled residents.
Athens Public Transit Driver in Athens Ohio, in January, 2018. Athens Public Transit drivers are employed by HAPCAP.
A HAPCAP worker helping a rider get out of a vehicle in January, 2018, in Athens, Ohio On Demand Transit workers help riders get in, out and where they are going.

Even though HAPCAP impacts so many people, a lack of funding makes it difficult for them to provide services to everyone. Logan Public Transit was facing potential cuts in September, 2017, but the organization rearranged funds so that no one would lose access to transportation.

“We can’t serve more people without more money,” Stroh said, but added that HAPCAP was trying to make the right decision for the people when it came down to a final decision regarding LPT.

“Some of our programs can end at any given time,” Hatas said. “But we would rather deliver it for a short period of time if that may be.”

While community awareness is a challenge for HAPCAP, accessing everyone who needs support from the organization can be even more daunting.

Carolyn Conley, the director of Transportation at HAPCAP  said while the organization offers solid transportation services in the towns it services, many people living outside fixed bus routes continue to struggle to find transportation.

HAPCAP was founded in 1965. It is a 501(3)(c) organization, which means it receives a substantial portion of its funding from the general public or the government.