The Widow’s Mite & the Tri-Partite Board


The founders and framers of Community Action back in the 1960s were keenly astute and perceptive, as proven by their having established a successful institutional framework that has survived nationally – and in Wisconsin – for 50 years.

One of their more brilliant ideas was that Community Action Agencies (CAAs) establish and require a tri-partite governing Boards of Directors; one-third shall be elected public officials; at least one-third shall represent poor persons, and the remaining members shall represent specific groups of areas within the community.  This mixture of representation ensures a varied background of interest, experience, and involvement from diverse strands of the local communities, all with the common intent to serve poor families and individuals.  Having specifically designated representatives for poor people ensures their voices of concern will be heard both consistently and accurately.  Differing affiliations of Board members enhances the CAA’s strength, but poor people representation is at the center of concern.

How does a tri-partite board relate to the widow’s mite; what do they have in common?

Ila Prindle is a past Board member of Central Wisconsin Community Action Council, Inc. (CWCAC), representing low-income interests;  she was poor by income standards but rich with enthusiasm, always exhibiting a smile.  As a reward for her loving and generous life, Ila lived until reaching the age of 89, leaving this earth on February 3, 2015.

So how does Ila relate to the widow’s mite?  Here is the story:

CWCAC constructed a 28,400 square foot office building in the Dells borrowing $1,100,000 from USDA’s Community Program loan project.  Completion was in the spring of 2003, at which time Ila was a member of CWCAC’s Board of Directors.  At a Board meeting shortly after the agency moved in to its new offices, one of the Board members commented that the comfortable 1,000 square foot Board room was lacking base board, which was not included in construction costs.  Having an estimate of $700 for handsome oak base board, the agency initiated a limited fundraising campaign.

One of the contributions that arrived by postal service mail was in the form of a check sent by Ila with a note of expression and disappointment which stated:  “I am so grateful to be on the Board of Directors for CWCAC, Inc., and so proud of our new building.  I want to contribute to making our Board room more attractive, but this is all I can afford.  My social security check only goes so far, I am embarrassed.”  Ila is a living example of the widow’s mite, and that’s the relation to a tri-partite Board.

Oh, you might be interested … the check was for $2.50.

Written by