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Our mission is to promote opportunities for low-income families and individuals to achieve and sustain self-sufficiency through advocacy, partnerships and services within the community, which may include, but are not limited to: low to moderate income housing development; neighborhood services; adult education services; youth education, development and delinquency prevention services; senior services; emergency services; business development; health; employment development; and early childhood services.
To achieve our mission, CAO in the short term will address the most pressing and immediate needs of our customers. In the long term, we will engage, convene, mobilize and utilize practices, programs and available resources that continually demonstrate the ability to build financial, educational, health, safety, and positive social capital in our communities.
We will fulfill this mission through a blend of strategies including targeted outcome based programs, sound management, strong governance and a persistent dedication to achieving results.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson and the US Congress enacted into law the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) and the war on poverty was declared.
The Act established the Office of Economic Opportunity, which was part of the executive branch of government and reported directly to the President. In the next two years, more than 1600 community action programs (which were recipients of EOA funds) opened throughout the nation. Today, many of these programs have stopped operating; the number is now about 900 agencies across the nation.
In May 1965, the Community Action Organization of Erie County (CAO) was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York. CAO was then designated as the official antipoverty agency for Erie County. Since its inception, CAO has had to struggle to survive while continuing to provide services, which encourage active citizen participation to affect educational, political, economic, and social change.
Recognized as one of the nation's strongest and best community action agencies, CAO has had only three executive directors: Ambrose Lane, who helped to create the Community Action Organization; Julian Dargan, who steered the agency from 1970 until 2002; and L. Nathan Hare, the current executive who is ushering the agency into a new era.
Since its existence, the Community Action Organization has never lost sight of its original mandate "citizen participation." Citizen participation makes community action unique and is the one ingredient that makes elected officials responsive to the needs of a community.
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