NKY Community Action Commission celebrates 50 years of service, expands reach

Fifty years ago, faced with a 19 percent poverty rate, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national “War on Poverty.” In response, agencies nationwide rose to meet the task of providing basic services and resources to help America’s struggling families achieve self-sufficiency.

Borne from this social movement, the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC) now celebrates its 50th year of service to individuals and families across NKY.

NKCAC is the region’s designated community-action agency, defined “agencies whose mission is assisting economically disadvantaged persons in alleviating the causes and consequences of poverty, and developing a plan to overcome barriers to self-sufficiency.” NKCAC has clients in eight NKY counties (Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen and Pendleton) and operates in 22 locations throughout the region with 140 staff as well as 160 trainees in its workforce training programs.

Florence Tandy, Executive Director of NKCAC, has seen programming grow and develop with the needs of its clients over her 11 years with the agency, expanding its base into more NKY counties and into more strategic services for children and elderly adults.

“The region’s low income residents have a variety of needs, just as all residents do,” she says. “Like all families, low-income parents want the best for their children, for their elderly parents and for themselves. Families deserve safe, affordable and decent housing, affordable health coverage and access to a quality education, job training and support when times are tough.

“NKCAC is such an important component of a community’s fabric because we provide such opportunities along with the education and resources they will need on their self-reliance journey. By lifting the well-being of the region’s low income families, NKCAC is able to contribute to the quality of life for all of Northern Kentucky’s families.”

The basic services provided by NKCAC include emergency food assistance and educational services such as Head Start and financial literacy classes, and programming continues to expand.

In 2010, NKCAC instituted a new child abuse prevention program called Community Collaboration for Children. Then, in 2013, it christened a new affordable housing complex in Boone County. The ReKindle Micro-enterprise Development training program was instituted in 2011 and the agency started Kynect enrollment in 2014, helping thousands of local families obtain affordable healthcare.

Most recently, in 2015, NKCAC expanded its services to youth and elderly adults by adding an Early Head Start (EHS) program and three new senior centers.

The goal of NKCAC’s new EHS program is to provide quality early childhood care and education to children ages six weeks to three years and to funnel resources to support existing childcare facilities in the region.

“We received funding for 80 EHS slots in 2015, implementing an innovative approach of working with child care providers to raise quality in the early childhood space,” Tandy says. “We are supporting the cost of providing enhanced services for EHS-eligible children in those centers, while also improving child development outcomes for all the children served by those centers. We’re working with three other providers for about half of those 80 slots and expanding our own centers to include this younger population within our range of services.”

In a similar fashion, NKCAC’s new senior centers are improving services already provided to senior residents in the region. NKCAC took over operation of centers in Ludlow, Elsmere and Williamstown last month, and according to an agency press release local residents can expect positive changes.

“The enters will continue to provide meal and nutrition programs, information assistance, health and wellness programs, social and recreational activities and educational opportunities,” the announcement reads. “In addition, NKCAC will focus on volunteer and civic engagement opportunities which connect seniors to their communities in positive, productive ways while also improving the physical condition of the centers and the equipment available at each location.”

Tandy has seen the agency’s budget grow alongside its programming, from $8 million in 2005 to more than $13 million for 2016. But with so many low-income families in the region, she says there is still room for expansion and new programs.

“As long as there is a need in the community that NKCAC can address, there is certainly room for growth,” Tandy says. “We see affordable housing, early childhood education, services for older residents, job training and access to health and nutrition services as continuing and growing needs in Northern Kentucky. With 22 locations in eight counties, NKCAC is well-positioned organizationally and geographically to serve the expanding needs of these at-risk populations.”
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