As part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was signed into law on August 20, 1964. Through the Office of Economic Opportunity, Community Action Programs and Community Action Agencies were created. These agencies were to become the means of conducting the War on Poverty.
The Central Arkansas Development Council was organized in 1965 as a private non-profit corporation for the purpose outlined in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The OEO recognized CADC as a Community Action Agency in November 1965, servicing Saline and Hot Spring Counties. The initial grant was for six months to develop the organization, plan the services, identify the target areas and to structure the Board to reflect one-third public, one-third private, and one-third low-income.
CADC’s first programs were job training and early childhood education. The first grants came early in 1966. Those were (1) a program to work with rural school districts to identify low-income students that were educationally disadvantaged and secure resources to assist them (2) Medcare Alert, enrolling persons 65 and older in Medicare (3) In School Work-Study Program, designed after the Neighborhood Youth Corp to secure employment for youth in school.
In April of 1966, a grant application was submitted to OEO for administrative funding of the agency. This was approved effective June 1, 1966. Head Start was introduced in the summer of 1966 and operated in both Saline and Hot Spring counties. In 1967, Head Start became a full year program.
By 1967, CADC’s funding was approximately $300,000 and the programs consisted of administration, Neighborhood Service Centers, Head Start, and Neighborhood Youth Corp, with offices in Benton and Malvern. In 1969, Clark County became a part of CADC’s service area.
During the 1970’s the agency began to develop new programs, including Senior Adult Centers, CETA Job Training, Community Food and Nutrition, Transportation, Family Planning, Energy Assistance, Weatherization, Alcohol Abuse and Housing Assistance. In 1973, CADC initiated the first Section 8 Housing Program in Saline County. This program was administered by CADC for four years. It was then transferred to the City of Benton and continues today.
During 1974 through 1979, the agency opened Senior Adult Programs in all counties, including Pike and Montgomery. Other programs were added as funding became available. In 1980, Pike and Montgomery Counties were officially designated as a part of CADC’s service area. Under the Five-County configuration, the Board size was set at 24 members with six members each from Saline, Hot Spring and Clark counties, and three members each from Pike and Montgomery counties.
CADC’s rural public transportation system, South Central Arkansas Transit (SCAT), was one of the first funded nationally as a Section 147 demonstration program in 1975.
During the 1980’s, the agency began to focus toward the development of programs that would promote self-sufficiency by working with the family as a unit and linking agency programs together to provide a coordinated approach to services. The Home Health Program, which began in 1982, provided in-home health care by Rns LPNs, and certified Home Health Aides. CADC was the first community action agency in the state to become a certified Home Health Agency. Prior to the passage of the Family Support Act at the federal level and the involvement of the state at the local level, CADC began operation of Project Independence in 1985. This program was designed to successfully move persons off welfare.
One of the most innovative and successful programs developed was the JTPA tutoring program. Beginning in 1987, JTPA eligible youths were trained by public school teachers to provide tutoring services to public school students identified by the school as needing this assistance. This effort has become a model project of remedial education to help schools meet new education standards. CADC began a JTPA Youth Competency Program for at-risk and drop-outs in 1989. Project Achievement included basic education skill training, pre-employment and work maturity competencies, work experience, on-the-job training and placement.
In 1989, SCAT was one of the first in the state to participate in the Greyhound Rural Connection Program. SCAT served as a bus depot in Malvern and CADC received reimbursement for facilitating the movement of its passengers in Clark County. SCAT personnel were instrumental in developing the Arkansas Transit Association.
The 1990’s saw an emphasis on the consumer and the agency began to be more responsive to its various communities and their unique needs. The size of the Board was reduced to 15. An Employee Scholarship Program was implemented and an Internal Training Program component was created for the development of trained staff sensitive to the needs of CADC’s customers.
In 1996, the state asked CADC to be a caretaker for services in five South Arkansas counties: Union, Ouachita, Calhoun, Dallas, and Columbia. In 1997, the state again asked CADC to be a caretaker for the Head Start program in five East Arkansas counties: Cross, Crittenden, Lee, Woodruff, and St. Francis. 1998 saw CADC formally incorporated the five Southern counties into the organization, making the service area for CADC 10 counties in Central, West Central and South Arkansas. In March 1998, the state asked CADC to become caretaker for the Head Start, CSBG and other programs in Pulaski and Lonoke Counties. CADC chose to relinquish the Head Start program, but continued to provide the remaining programs to Pulaski and Lonoke counties.
In October 1999, CADC formally incorporated Pulaski and Lonoke Counties into the agency. The agency serves 12 counties with a large and diversified scope of programs promoting self-sufficiency for families in many areas. CADC administers the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program and serves as fiscal agent in some of its counties. Also in 1999, CADC became the fiscal agent for the Saline County TEA Coalition to hire and provide office space for the TEA Coalition Coordinator. CADC currently provides office space and other support for Saline County Habitat for Humanity.
CADC is the largest Community Action Agency in Arkansas, serving 12 counties and assisting more than 20,000 low-income individuals and families annually. CADC implements a philosophy of self-help through a decentralized, county-based structure and a process that provides innovative, practical and timely programs. The focus is also on services which emphasize education and employment readiness at all levels, and the development of problem-solving skills for people and communities.
An acute awareness of accountability at all levels has led CADC to focus on transitioning the board of directors to a broader representation of the sector, skills, geography and service area it serves. CADC has initiated a model program, the Community Leadership Development Program, in which CADC partners with community groups, public officials, and the business community to expand its board to be a reflection of the area it serves.
In 2003, Larry Cogburn becomes Executive Director of CADC. CADC is growing and responding to an ever-changing community. Its programs and services include early childhood education, elder services, nutrition, energy assistance, housing, weatherization, transportation, planning and development, consumer services, case management, and advocacy. The 21st Century promises to be an exciting time. The CADC Board of Directors and a staff are committed to excellence in helping improve the quality of life for families in Arkansas.