First State agency joins in celebrating Community Action network's 50th year

May 11, 2014

As Community Action turns 50, First State Community Action Agency builds on its legacy of service and advocacy for Delawareans.

“We look back with a sense of satisfaction for the work that we have done to make a difference in the lives of families and communities in Delaware, and we look forward with a sense of urgency to the challenges we face to lessen the effects of poverty and low incomes on families given the economic condition of our state. More families are finding it difficult to put food on the table, a roof over their heads, heat and maintain their homes, provide greater opportunity for their children through a college education and stay gainfully employed,” said Bernice Edwards, executive director of First State.

Edwards continued, “We envision a future where household poverty is radically diminished through livable wages and supportive services, and where our communities flourish. With our sleeves rolled up, we will continue to work side by side with our many corporate, nonprofit and government partners to have a meaningful impact on the effects of low incomes on families, for this is the Delaware way, to work together to solve the problems that we as a state face.”

In 2014, Community Action agencies across the country will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Community Action. Nationally, the Community Action Partnership will honor the occasion during its 2014 Annual Convention Aug. 19-22 in Washington, D.C.

“In the last 50 years, Community Action has been extremely successful helping people achieve and maintain economic security despite experiencing budget cuts, shrinking resources, and increased demands for services during challenging economic times,” said Don Mathis, president and CEO of the Community Action Partnership national office.

First State, just embarking on its 49th year, is planning a series of events to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015. Some of the events in 2015 will be the annual Gala, Miniature Golf Tournament, Poverty tours throughout the state and youth focus groups.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act Aug. 20, 1964, in Washington, D.C. The EOA created a variety of programs - including Community Action Agencies - as part of his War on Poverty. First State Community Action Agency was one of those agencies established to address local poverty problems in rural, urban, and suburban communities across the country.

First State - then the Sussex County Community Action Agency - got its start serving Sussex County residents in 1965 by a group of concerned citizens in Sussex County.  The group applied for federal recognition of nonprofit status and was incorporated April 12, 1966, thus becoming Delaware's first and only federally recognized Community Action Agency. In 1993, the agency expanded its service to include all three Delaware counties and became First State Community Action Agency. First State has since been recognized by local and state officials as one of Delaware’s leading anti-poverty human service organizations.

“First State’s track record in Delaware highlights the positive impact we’ve had helping our neighbors through a variety of financial and personal challenges,” said Edwards. “We help over 12,500 individuals each year change their lives with a variety of programs such as employment and training for youth, seniors, and adults; housing counseling; case management; and youth education programs, and our success stories underscore our ability to achieve measurable results. First State administers a top-notch Adult Culinary Arts Training Program which has had tremendous success in helping adults obtain and maintain jobs in the food service industry, more than 85 percent. Our community-based youth programs have helped more than 450 youth in low-socioeconomic and at-risk communities meet and exceed academic standards annually through after-school and summer learning enrichment opportunities. Our financial literacy and housing counseling services have helped thousands of people develop and maintain budgets and expand and/or preserve their resources through budget/credit counseling and savings accounts while also helping hundreds of others avoid foreclosure and homelessness."

For more information about First State, go to or call 1-800-372-2240.


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