Community Action Partnership helps communities thrive
By Abigail Thorpe
Photo by Community Action Partnership
Fifty-six years ago, in late summer of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) as part of his call for a war on poverty. The act created Community Action Programs across the country—the vision of which was to improve the lives of all Americans, regardless of circumstances.
The EOA delegated that financially under-resourced populations determine what kind of assistance they would benefit from most, and as a result, Community Action Programs serve to help build relationships to inspire and equip individuals to end poverty but also help provide stabilization and assistance for them to do so through much needed resources and education.
“We envision a community where all people are equipped to achieve their potential, have sufficient resources, relationships and meaning in their lives to thrive, and are valued and able to meet their own needs by utilizing their talents, potential and passions,” says Kimberly Spencer, Community Services Manager for Community Action Partnership.
Community Action Partnership in Coeur d’Alene is dedicated to equipping its local communities to end poverty through providing resources, education and tangible help. Community Action routinely conducts community needs assessments, and the same major challenges rise to the top each time, explains Spencer. Lack of safe, affordable housing, transportation issues, employment opportunities, childcare, food and nutrition, education and health services are all major hardships those with a lack of resources face in exiting poverty.
The organization works in conjunction with other Community Action agencies across Idaho, Washington and Oregon to identify key indicators of success with both individuals and families as they achieve stability and begin the journey to exit poverty.
“Under this Theory of Change, we seek to provide services, develop projects and create initiatives that assist people who are experiencing poverty to become, first, stable and basic needs secure, and secondly, resilient in the face of the challenging task of becoming equipped to exit poverty,” explains Spencer. “It provides a strategic roadmap to address the various issues facing people of all ages who are experiencing poverty in our communities. It allows for a variety of approaches, including direct service delivery, community-based initiatives and strategic partnerships.”
Community Action Partnership in Coeur d’Alene offers a variety of programs and services, but most fall under two main categories: transactional opportunities and transformational opportunities.
Transactional opportunities are services that are designed to help stabilize families and individuals in the community. They are tangible, physical forms of assistance, and include things like energy assistance to help with electric and heating bills, food and nutrition assistance, referrals to other community partners who can help, and home weatherization. Without having their basic needs met, it’s nearly impossible for individuals and families to try and exit their current situation. “In working with the under-resourced community, we’ve found that a solid, stable footing is necessary in order for people to be able to focus on their goals,” says Spencer.
Besides helping provide basic essentials and support to keep families afloat, Community Action Partnership also offers services to help individuals develop and grow their own strengths, talents and potential to better equip themselves to move their families out of poverty and toward a better life.
These are what they describe as “transformational” services, and the organization offers family centered coaching, and brainstorms strategies and resources that can address the needs of the entire family during their journey to self-reliance and stability.
“We realize that families are all very unique and that they need different things at different times,” explains Spencer. “We meet people ‘where they are’ by providing support, practical skills, and useful tools and linkages to community resources as families work toward greater stability and financial wellness.”
To further aid individuals struggling to find work, Community Action offers Workplace Excellence and Essential Skills classes in the community. These classes focus on things like how to interact well in the workplace, adapting to changes, and hidden rules that are the unspoken understanding of people’s values and backgrounds, so that individuals can be successful and thrive in the workplace.
A recent individual enrolled in the Essential Skills class was facing difficulty finding work, due to various barriers—a felony, lack of transportation and low confidence. Through using the tools he gained from the workshops, he successfully obtained a forklift certification and became CPR certified, is now employed in a good job and no longer faces transportation issues.
This is just one example of how Community Action has helped individuals and families. Throughout the years, they have helped several individuals obtain their GEDs and enroll in college; made it possible for 3,000 people to keep their power on and stay warm just during last year; and distributed more than 1 million pounds of food to the community in the last year alone.
Whenever an individual contacts or is referred to Community Action, the organization evaluates how they can best assist the individual or family. While some programs the organization offers require people qualify for help or assistance, they never turn anyone away who comes in with a nutritional need.
In everything it does, Community Action Partnership is committed to helping Coeur d’Alene and other communities thrive, by helping individuals when they can and working with other organizations to meet the needs of whoever comes to their door. Volunteers are always welcome and needed in the fight to end poverty. For more information, visit CAP4Action.org or call 208.664.8757.