Community Action is commemorating 50 years of existence in 2014. In 1964 our nation declared an “unconditional war on poverty.” In President Johnson’s first State of the Union address on January 8, 1964 he brought up the concept of a war on poverty:
“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope-some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until the war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it. Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support. But this attack, to be effective, must be organized at the State and the local level and must be supported and directed by State and local efforts.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson created Head Start and other programs serving low-income families. He also signed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, which created Community Action Agencies, Job Corps, VISTA and other programs to fight poverty. Other vital services to impact the most vulnerable of populations were also put in place such as Medicaid, Medicare and the permanent food stamp program.
North Central Community Action Program (NCCAP) is one of sixteen Community Action Agencies in Wisconsin. The mission of NCCAP is to act as an advocate, provider, and facilitator of programs and services for low-income individuals in Lincoln, Marathon, and Wood Counties. NCCAP seeks to create opportunities for people and communities to obtain skills, identify, and utilize resources and explore innovative options necessary to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency. Services provided by NCCAP include the low-income weatherization program, emergency housing and rental assistance programs, transitional supportive housing program, emergency food pantry screening, skills enhancement services to underemployed workers, the AmeriCorps Team-Greater Wausau Area, and Jobs and Business Development.
What makes Community Action unique is we are locally controlled, independent organizations with governing bodies representing all facets of local communities (private, government and low-income representatives) fighting poverty on a local level. NCCAP works with other organizations and community collaborations to address issues of poverty. NCCAP is a member of the regions housing and homelessness coalitions as well as local hunger coalitions.
In 2013 NCCAP provided services to over 10,000 individuals in central Wisconsin. One example of this assistance was a 23 year old woman with two children who was a domestic violence survivor. NCCAP was able to connect her with The Women’s Community Domestic Violence Shelter to provide needed support, The Neighbor’s Place for food pantry and home furnishings, and the North Central Technical College Learning Center to assist with education preparation. We were able to connect her with the Marathon County Job Center to assist with an employment search and NCCAP provided emergency rental assistance to get her into her own apartment. In spite of many obstacles in front of this young mother a positive outcome was achieved with the help of Community Action, local community resources and her diligent efforts.
The National Community Action Partnership promotes the promise of Community Action. It states, “Community Action changes people’s lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities and makes America a better place to live. We care about the entire community and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.”
I urge everyone to become active in local anti-poverty activities by joining local coalitions, participate in community conversations, give of your time, talents and financial resources to become part of that community action promise. And feel free to contact me with your thoughts, comments or questions.
North Central CAP