A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Our American Story: Personal Stories on the War on Poverty’s Legacy

Looking for Stories from Your Agency!

Read the excerpts below from stories showcasing the vital role of Community Action Agencies in helping individuals and families across America. The Community Action Partnership is interested in developing more of these stories from other CAAs. Please contact Don Mathis, President & CEO of the Partnership with some basic details of your agency’s efforts that have made a crucial difference in the lives of those you serve.  Include the agency name and state, contact person's name, title, phone number and email address.

The Booklet

Our American Story, along with Community Action Partnership, wanted to give voice to the millions of Americans whose lives have been transformed by programs such as nutrition assistance, early education, job training, and other programs that have their roots in the War on Poverty.

This booklet showcases merely 30 of the contributions submitted by parents, children, and service providers who have struggled or are struggling with poverty; they are our neighbors, our relatives, and our teachers.  Their stories are Our American Story.

Renewing the Commitment to Cut Poverty

The War on Poverty has not failed us. But our economy has.

Our economy and social fabric have changed significantly in the past 50 years.  Demographic shifts, rising income inequality, and insufficient access to jobs and education pose new policy challenges.  Too often, our public policies have not met the needs posed by these trends.

Today, our nation faces a serious challenge with poverty—a challenge that we know we can overcome and one we simply cannot afford to ignore.  Our past success in cutting poverty was born out of a national commitment as serious as the challenge itself.  To meet the new challenges of the 21st century, we need the political will to do so.

Building on the legacy of the landmark War on Poverty programs, we can update our public policy to meet the needs of our changing nation.  With more than 46 million Americans living in poverty and one in three teetering on the economic brink, the need for a renewed commitment to cut poverty has never been more urgent.

Community Action Makes a Difference!

Many of the stories showcase the vital role of Community Action Agencies in helping individuals and families across America.  Read the full stories as highlighted through these excerpts from Our American Story:
  • Nikkie, Miami, Arizona (p. 12):  “If not for the funding that was available through the Community Action Housing Services Program, I would have lost my home.”  Gila County Community Action Program
  • Leticia, San Luis Obispo, California (pp. 16-17): “Community Action Partnership’s Head Start Program not only gave my son stability during our time of transition, but it gave me the opportunity to work and go back to school.  For the first time in a long time, I had a renewed sense of hope for a brighter future…As a result of the community resource and advocacy skills I learned through Head Start, my family was able to apply to People’s Self-Help Housing, which provides moderate-income families with affordable homeownership opportunities.  With the assistance of family and friends, I am participating in building our three-bedroom, two-bath home in a neighborhood near my extended family, which will be finished in early 2014!”   Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County
  • Tracey, Chico, California (pp. 20-21): “Found through our Community Action Agency, this transitional living program for homeless families called Esplanade House.  Community Action Agency of Butte County
  • Tabitha, Middletown, Connecticut (pp. 24-25): “When Caleb showed signs of speech delay, he was enrolled in the Connecticut Birth to Three System, the state’s early intervention program.  Caleb later entered the Head Start program, which is operated by the area community action agency.  Doing so proved to be the support her family needed to not only survive but to also thrive.”  Community Renewal Team
  • Juanita, Snellville, Georgia (pp. 26-27): I am a 51-year African-American woman who was born into poverty in 1962 on a small, rural farm in Warren County, North Carolina.  My mother’s high school diploma only enabled her to do domestic work-until Head Start!  My mother became one of the first Head Start teachers in the country working in the program.  Head Start afforded my mother the meaningful and purposeful work that also allowed her to support our family.  In 1968, I would get my turn to go to Head Start.” Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunity, Inc.
  • Olga, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (pp. 30-31): “The Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania, a program of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, or CACLV, made it possible for me to provide nutritious meals for my children,  When I was ready to purchase a home, the CACLV’s Homeownership Counseling Program…helped prepare me for the responsibilities of owning my first home…enabled me to access special financing through a partnership between the CACLV and local banks…LIHEAP weatherized my new home and installed a furnace…VITA helped me file my taxes…My daughters were benefiting from after-school programs made possible by the CACLV that ranged from computer training to SAT preparation…My oldest daughter is a Fulbright scholar and is currently in medical school; my middle daughter is in law school; and my youngest daughter just graduated from college…I currently work as a legislative assistant in Pennsylvania.” Community Action Community of the Lehigh Valley
  • Paula, Traverse City, Michigan (pp. 34-35): “Luckily, the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency had monthly meetings that I regularly attended.  They connected me to the Michigan State Housing Authority…they connected me to Habitat for Humanity…We were happy for the first six months in our new home, but then I lost my job, and my husband and I needed to get divorced.  I would have been stuck financially had it not been for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Home Heating Credit programs that kept us afloat.” Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency
  • Kim, Fairbury, Nebraska (pp. 38-39): “In June of 2010, I found myself fleeing domestic violence without any money, unemployed, homeless, and with my two children…A local crisis center referred me to Blue Valley Community Action Partnership for assistance with food and housing…two months after initially receiving help, I obtained a part-time job at a retail store.  A few weeks later I became a full-time employee as a case coordinator for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program when it became available at the Blue Valley Community Action Agency, the same program that originally helped me.  I have now been employed there for more than three years and gained the job skills needed to advance to my current position as research and development officer.” Blue Valley Community Action Partnership
  • Sarah, Vinton, Virginia (pp. 40-41): “…when my older son needed child care while I worked for my degree, the Head Start program at Roanoke’s Total Action for Progress, or TAP, took him in at no cost to me.  Without these programs I would have fallen into a lifetime of poverty.  These programs changed the odds for me.  Less than two months ago, I was hired as the marketing communications specialist at TAP in Roanoke, the same agency that was key to my success.  I am honored to wake up every day and serve those who are in similar situations as I was and work hard to make sure that I do whatever I can to ensure the windows of opportunity stay open for them as they did for me.” Total Action for Progress
  • Alexis, Cincinnati, Ohio (pp. 42-43): Alexis personifies what happens when you get the kind of help, hope, and opportunity offered at the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency.  Two years ago, Alexis decided that she wanted her daughter taken out of regular day care and placed in a quality learning environment; she sought out Head Start, a curriculum Alexis knew she could trust.  A single mom expecting a second child, she signed up with Head Start Pregnant Mom’s program.  Unfortunately, when hard times hit Alexis lost her job and was force to move back home.  The Community Action Agency case managers…admired her determination to do better for herself, and she was chosen for the Roosevelt Housing Program and moved into an apartment on December 2011…She finally had a place to call her own, but her struggle was not over; Alexis needed to set goals – something that the Roosevelt Housing Program requires.  A job to help her family was at the top of her list.  Today at age 29, Alexis is one of the supervisors responsible for helping other people at a temp agency find jobs.  Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency

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