Community Action celebrates 50 years

Coming together: (Top row) Kendra Williams, Michelle Kine, Belda Coburn, Angela Martin, Betty Johnson, LaGora Lykes, Doris Ware, Peggy Burnett, (front row) Ocie Williams, Lee Wilson, Janice Patterson and Amber Burns all either spoke or helped with Community Action's 50 Years event.

Coming together: (Top row) Kendra Williams, Michelle Kine, Belda Coburn, Angela Martin, Betty Johnson, LaGora Lykes, Doris Ware, Peggy Burnett, (front row) Ocie Williams, Lee Wilson, Janice Patterson and Amber Burns all either spoke or helped with Community Action’s 50 Years event.

The 50th anniversary of the Economic Opportunity Act and 50 years of Community Action were celebrated Thursday.

The 11th Area of Alabama Opportunity Action Committee Inc. held an event featuring several speakers at the Alabama Power Conference Center in Clanton.

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 authorized the formation of local Community Action agencies as part of the War on Poverty.

One of Thursday’s speakers, Janice Patterson, looked back at her time with the agency.

“In the beginning, we did a lot of brainstorming,” Patterson said. “It was new territory.”

Patterson, who served as fiscal officer for the 11th Area for 43 years, talked about how the original plan was to phase out Community Action.

“Poverty had not been wiped out,” she said. “The need is still there today, and probably even more so, for Community Action.”

Ocie Williams, board secretary for the 11th area, president of Concerned Citizens of Chilton County and retired Army SFC of 24 years, preceded Patterson.

“America is great, but it can’t be great unless we make it great,” he said. “Let’s come together and be one.”

Kendra Williams, executive director of the 11th Area, gave welcoming and closing remarks.

Some of the local Community Action agency’s projects were highlighted, including the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, utility assistance, homeless assistance, housing repairs, GED study materials and funding, the Gardening Fund, budget and energy classes, senior nutrition, youth development and Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

Board member Lee Wilson gave the invocation, asking God to “give us another 50 years of success.”

Angela Martin, projects director for the Community Action Association of Alabama, also spoke at the event.

Peggy Burnett, associate director of the Alabama Business Charitable Trust Fund and program manager for Alabama Power Foundation, said corporations may give donations but, “You guys have the talent and the resources to make it happen,” she told the Community Action representatives in attendance.

“Without you, people wouldn’t have lights sometimes,” Burnett said. “You make all the difference in the world.”

The final speaker of the day was LaGora Lykes, family engagement worker for Head Start.

Lykes highlighted Head Start’s importance before saying that Community Action has been crucial to her program’s success.

“Without Community Action and without Community Action employees, we would not have Head Start in this area,” Lykes said.

Before the event concluded, long-time Community Action supporter Doris Ware was recognized.

“We helped a lot of people,” Ware said. “I enjoyed every day that I worked with Community Action.”

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