WAHOO – Community Action of Saunders County empowers people living in poverty to reach economic stability.
According to Vi See, executive director, their 18 programs and services address the causes and conditions of poverty in four impact areas: early childhood education, homelessness prevention, financial and family well-being, and hunger relief and healthy food access.
“Our agency was founded in 1965 as part of a national initiative to fight poverty,” See said. “We are one of over 1,100 agencies of our kind in the country. Our programming is designed specifically to meet the needs of those in our service area of Lancaster and Saunders counties.”
See said some of the primary services they provide in Saunders County include rent and utility assistance to near-homeless and homeless populations through the Emergency Services program.
“We also provide weatherization/rehabilitation services through our weatherization program, and early childhood education services through our Early Head Start and Head Start programs,” said See. “Our affiliated nonprofit, LAPHDC, owns Chestnut North Town Homes in Wahoo.”
See joined Community Action in 2008. Prior to that, she was executive director for the Girl Scouts-Homestead Council.
See credits her current board of directors with assisting and supporting her with all agency goals that include assuring all individuals have the access to the opportunities they need to succeed in life.
“The board of directors has a tripartite structure consisting of one third constituent representatives, one third private sector representatives, and one third public sector representatives,” she said.
See said the Saunders County Board of Supervisors also appoints a representative to our board.
“We currently benefit from the board service of Michelle Libal, victim advocate/legal secretary with the Saunders County Attorney’s Office,” she said.
See said that part of their preparation involves strategic planning.
“Every three years, our board of directors completes a strategic plan,” she said. “One of the goals within our last plan was to increase our visibility in Saunders County. We took a big step in achieving this goal in 2017 when we opened an office in Wahoo, from which we operate our Saunders and Rural Lancaster County Emergency Services program.”
According to See this program provides emergency rent and utility assistance to households in crisis, and the need is significant.
Last year, they provided assistance to 151 individuals in 64 households, but the need is much greater than their capacity.
“An immediate goal is to increase our capacity within this program so we can assist a greater number of individuals facing or experiencing homelessness,” she said.
Another service Community Action provides is home weatherization for low- to moderate-income households.
“Weatherization services improve energy efficiency of homes, which also positively impacts energy costs,” she said.
Unfortunately, some homes can’t be helped through the weatherization program.
“One of the trends we had observed within this program was the number of homes we couldn’t weatherize because they did not meet necessary standards,” said See.
To address this, they applied for and received funding from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka to provide the necessary services to bring homes up-to-code.
“Our goal with this funding is to target eligible homeowners in Saunders County,” said See. “We encourage all who think they may be eligible to apply and encourage local contractors to reach out to us for job opportunities.”