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History

1900 to 1964
From the days of the earliest settlers, the spirit of helping the less fortunate has been a key element of American society.  In the early 1900’s the federal government stepped in to provide additional retirement income through a new Social Security Program and to assist those temporarily unemployed with the Unemployment Insurance System.  Social workers were hired to determine eligibility, advise recipients about how to use the money, and help them obtain services necessary to get them off welfare.  From the 1930’s to the 1950’s, State and local governments were responsible for administering the programs created during the Depression.

As communication media expanded, the American public became more aware of the growing difficulties of the low-income population.  They soon believed that everyone could live “the good life” and that society as a whole had a responsibility for helping people overcome barriers that prevented them from sharing in the benefits of American Society.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy introduced the “New Frontier” which included support for programs to prevent juvenile delinquency.  The President’s Council funded Mobilization for Youth (MFY) which organized neighborhood councils to correct conditions which led to juvenile delinquency.  The program was called COMMUNITY ACTION, and it looked like an effective and inexpensive way to solve problems.

After the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson expanded the policy ideas initiated in the Kennedy Administration.  In his message to Congress on January 8, 1964, President Johnson said:

“Let us carry forward the plans and programs of John F. Kennedy, not because of our sorrow or sympathy, but because they are right...This administration today, here and now declares an unconditional War on Poverty in America”.

1964 to 1980
The “War on Poverty” was born.  In August 1964, the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) was passed, creating a Federal Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).  The Economic Opportunity Act stated in part: “It is therefore the policy of the United States to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this nation...”  The EOA included new education, employment and training, and work-experience programs. Congress provided for direct funding of community groups: the Community Action concept.

The first Community Action Agency in North Dakota was Cass County Community Action which opened in 1965.  North Dakota is divided into eight regions with seven Community Action offices serving all eight regions
 
Established under the Economic Opportunity Act, Community Action moved into northwestern North Dakota to fight America’s war on poverty.  Citizens and professionals heard about the availability of funds to assist low income individuals and families. The late Oscar Bergstad convened a group of interested residents.  An organizational meeting in Velva established an initial Board of Directors consisting of 21 board members [3 people from each county in Region II].  In August 1975, Area II Concerned Low-Income People, or CLIP, filed for its charter as a non-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) corporation recognized by the IRS. Shortly thereafter, the Board hired the first Executive Director. 
 
From 1975 to the early 1980’s, the agency was primarily an advocate for low-income people. Offering emergency services and Weatherization.  

1981 to Today
In 1981, the agency filed for a name change in their articles of incorporation from CLIP to Community Action Opportunities, Inc.
 
In the mid 1980’s, Community Action broadened its program emphasis beyond advocacy and added new programs.  A need for transportation was identified: CAO obtained an overland bus, and as a result, a couple in Burke County began a transportation Service.  The agency also operated a large greenhouse in Bottineau.  CAO staff was instrumental in starting the Meals-on-Wheels program in the Kenmare area, and also maintained a community garden in the Minot area called the Rainbow Garden.  When the food programs first started, CAO involved as many as 400 volunteers.  The organization now supports 13 food pantries throughout Region II.
 
The transportation, greenhouse, Meals on Wheels and the community garden programs were spun off to other entities.  Community Action continued with the Weatherization program and added the Self Reliance program in 1988.
 
In 1996, the Board of Directors was reduced from 21 members to 9.  This consisted of 3 representatives from each sector: public, private and low-income with at least one from each county in the region.
 
In 1999, the agency entered a phase of substantial change. In July the organization relocated to a new, greatly enhanced office building with an attached warehouse totaling 13,355 square feet from an office building of 5,923 total square feet.
 
In August of 1999, the organization’s well known Executive Director of 19 years, Chuck Duke, retired.  After a search, Denise Norsby was promoted to Executive Director.  Mrs. Norsby began her career with Community Action in July 1992 as Office Manager/Executive Secretary.  In August 1994, she was promoted to Assistant Director and in September 1999 she was promoted to Executive Director. Mrs. Norsby retired in June of 2008 after 16 years with Community Action.  Willy Soderholm began his career with Community Action as Executive Director effective June 1, 2008.