Seventeen years ago, Paul Billups was looking for a job. His goal was mainly to get a paycheck, but he ended up with so much more when he landed his current role.

Paul is the HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) Manager at the Council for Economic Opportunities. He started as a seasonal employee in 1999, then worked his way up to a management position.

“My main responsibility is to ensure this program remains successful,” he said of his current position. “This is accomplished by a number of things including program planning and evaluation, staff development and budget analysis.”

HEAP is one of the main crisis support programs offered by the Council. It helps residents who are struggling to make ends meet pay their heating and cooling bills. That’s especially important with the bitter cold winters we see here in Northeast Ohio. For Paul, the mission to help is personal.

“I have been on the receiving end of utility assistance and similar programs and most of the time they were not positive experiences,” he said. “It is my goal to provide our customers with exceptional customer service while helping them to become more self-sufficient.”

In addition to helping income-eligible residents through HEAP, Paul and his staff let clients know about Head Start and the other education programs the Council offers.

All those years ago, Paul got the job and the paycheck he set out to find, but in the process, he got more than he could have ever imagined.

“At 23 years old, I didn’t have much of an idea what I wanted to do in life,” he said. “But since then, it has been the satisfaction of knowing I can make a difference in people’s lives that has inspired me to do my very best.”