How We Got Here
The beginning of community action was in the heart of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created and defined community action agencies. The governing Board of Directors of these agencies was required to represent members from three distinct sectors of the community: one-third public sector representatives one-third or more low income sector representatives, and the balance from the private sector.
Incorporated in 1966, the Heart of Georgia corporation operated instructional programs designed to ameliorate the poverty conditions of poor families. Particular emphasis was placed on the plight of the very young and the very old. Examples of these early programs are as follows: garden projects, literacy projects, fire wood projects, housing renovation programs, and Head Start.
Some years later, a Georgia initiative requested the voluntary realignment of community action agency territory to more closely resemble the territory that was covered by area planning organizations. The Board of Directors of the Heart of Georgia CAC agreed with this initiative and took actions that called for the creation of a community action agency in the Middle Georgia area.
Incorporated in 1974, the Middle Georgia Community Action Agency initially served a six county area contiguous to the newly aligned Heart of Georgia area. This new agency began operation with a total funding level of $186,000 for services in four counties.
Two events in the early 80’s had an important effect on both agencies. President Reagan’s nation wide funding restructure for community action agencies had different affects on each agency: Heart of Georgia CAC was facing a substantial decrease in funding, but Middle Georgia CAA was receiving an increase. During the same time period, the executive director of the Heart of Georgia agency died. These events spurred the Board of Directors of the Heart of Georgia agency to contact the Board of the Middle Georgia agency to investigate the possibility of combining services.
In 1982, the two Board of Directors unanimously agreed that Heart of Georgia CAC would become a subsidiary agency of Middle Georgia CAA. This agreement, in practice, delegated the administrative and operational responsibilities of the Heart of Georgia programs to the Middle Georgia agency, but left the planning and policy functions with the Heart of Georgia Board who continued to be contractually responsible for all grants and contracts.
Since that date in 1982 when the two agencies began this cooperative effort, the funding for the Heart of Georgia CAC has grown from $400,000 annually to over $1.4 million. Together, these agencies form a service area that covers 21% of the State (33 counties) and that annually receives in excess of $18 million.
Both agencies are private, nonprofit corporations in good standing with the office of Georgia Secretary of State. Both agencies are audited annually by an independent audit firm who submits the audit directly to the agencies’ funding sources. Today, these agencies operate rural transportation projects, Head Start, beneficiary assistance programs, housing rehabilitation programs, various counseling programs as well as Community Care Service Programs.
Although the Board of Directors are conservative in their fiscal operation, they are aggressive in their solicitation of new/expanded funding opportunities. This fact greatly contributes to the continued growth and success of the agencies.