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West CAP commemorates 50 Years of Service

On October 15, West CAP will commemorate 50 years of service to local communities at the UW-Stout Memorial Student Center in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Michael Perry, best-selling author and humorist, will be the keynote speaker at the event. The public is invited to the event which will start at 4:30 p.m.

 In 1964, The Great Society, as envisioned by President Lyndon Johnson, was a sweeping plan to improve the lives of all Americans, regardless of their circumstances. Inspired by President Kennedy and his New Frontier, Johnson pledged to fulfill his promise of equal opportunity for all by enacting several comprehensive changes within the federal government. In August of that same year, the Economic Opportunity Act was signed into law by President Johnson creating the nationwide Community Action Network.

The West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency, Inc., (West CAP), was organized in 1965 under the authorization of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. West CAP was one of about 1,000 Community Action Agencies (CAAs) across the United States established at that time. This unique agency – sanctioned by federal legislation but governed locally – was established by the boards of supervisors of seven counties: Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Pepin, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix, comprising an area of 5,328 square miles. Its first program was the Neighborhood Youth Corps, working on flood control along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers.

West CAP grew quickly, becoming a major provider of employment and training and early childhood services. Thereafter, its history can be capsulated by a series of “firsts”:

• An innovative program model was developed at West CAP in 1991 to help families achieve permanent housing.

• In 1974, the first of the federally-funded Weatherization programs. Today, West CAP is still an innovation leader in this field featuring state-of-the art technologies.

• In 1980, West CAP conducted the first distribution of food commodities in its 7-county area. Commodity services have evolved into the TEFAP program, providing food resources to 25 food pantries, 4 homeless shelters and one soup kitchen.

• In 1990, West CAP launched a Comprehensive Child Development Program, a pilot project that helped create the national Early Head Start program.

• In 1993, the agency became a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO). West CAP currently has over 300 affordable rental units under management, including student housing in Rice Lake, WI.

• In 1998, West CAP established the JumpStart Transportation Program, facilitating the purchase of late model, warranted automobiles by low-income households.

• In 2009, we launched a “Deep Retrofit” demonstration program that proved it was possible to affordably retrofit existing residences to be net zero, or near net zero, energy users.

West CAP has always been and will continue to be a locally-based, non-profit organization. Further information about West CAP can be found at Persons interested in supporting West CAP’s programs by making a tax-deductible gift or volunteering may contact Kristen at 715-265-4271 or visit the website.