50 Years of Improving Lives through Community Action
by David Hardenbergh
On August 20, 1964, President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act into law creating Community Action agencies and other programs such as Job Corps, Medicare, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and Legal Services.
As the only Community Action agency in Alaska, RurAL CAP was founded in 1965 and marks its 50th anniversary this year. For the past 50 years, the lives of tens of thousands of Alaskans have been touched and improved by the people and programs of RurAL CAP. As we look back at our rich history, we see a wide range of organizational accomplishments and results including:
- Providing opportunities for Alaska Native leaders to participate in the settlement of land claims;
- Strengthening tribal governments and protecting subsistence hunting and fishing rights;
- Serving more than 30,000 children in Head Start and Early Head Start;
- Providing over 2 million nutritious meals to Head Start children;
- Weatherizing more than 10,000 homes statewide;
- Improving the electrical energy-efficiency of more than 2,000 homes through EnergyWise;
- Developing 234 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing in Anchorage for individuals with limited credit and rental history and the homeless;
- Serving 557 individuals at Homeward Bound, a transitional housing facility for the homeless;
- Building 50 Self-Help Homes for families in the Kenai area; providing first-time home buyers an opportunity for affordable home ownership;
- Providing more than 1.5 million hours of service through VISTA and AmeriCorps programs to 100 communities statewide focusing on capacity building, energy efficiency and wellness;
- Co-hosting the Rural Providers’ Conference for 32 years by embracing traditional Alaska Native knowledge and leading the sobriety movement;
- Providing services to more than 18,000 low-income Alaskans annually and serving as the state’s largest partner for Head Start, AmeriCorps and Weatherization programs;
- Providing 250 small grants to rural communities through the RurAL CAP Foundation; and
- Supporting more than 350 local Toyostove dealers and small businesses through our for-profit wholesale distributor, Rural Energy Enterprises.
Ultimately, we measure our value as an organization based on the results and changes made in the lives of the people we serve. Remaining mission driven, attracting and retaining committed Board members and high performing employees, and maintaining strong partnerships are critical components to RurAL CAP’s future success as we commemorate our 50th anniversary.
Thank you for your support during the past 50 years. RurAL CAP will remain focused on our mission to empower low-income Alaskans through advocacy, education, affordable housing and direct services that respect our unique values and cultures. Together we can do what we cannot do alone.