May 2nd, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Community Action Southwest (CAS) received statewide recognition recently as the recipient of two Distinguished Service Awards, presented by the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania (CAAP).

CAS received the Innovative Program of the Year award, which recognizes an agency whose newly developed program significantly impacted the quality of life for clients in a meaningful way. CAS partnered with Jefferson-Morgan School District this past year on a program called Community Innovation Zones. Both CAS and the school district are jointly committed to addressing the achievement of low-income students in rural Greene County.

CAS recognized that in order for children to succeed, their family unit must develop jobs skills, prepare for post-secondary education and possess technological skills. CAS strengthened their relationship with the school district and centralized services by implementing a Basic Computer Skills class for parents, creating transition activities for each grade level, and providing an on-site caseworker, among other initiatives. The strategies implemented have resulted in an increase in parent engagement, improved school readiness for children at risk of educational failure, and families working toward self-sufficiency.

The Community Engagement Award recognizes agencies whose initiatives successfully improved their community, improved the conditions for low-income families, and/or strengthened the agency’s relationships with its community partners and leaders. CAS was honored with the Community Engagement Award for instituting the Assets for Independence program (AFI).

Many low-income families lack the financial skills and capacity to manage and save money to escape poverty. To help clients achieve a greater degree of self-sufficiency, CAS partnered with nine local financial institutions to provide a $2 to $1 matched savings program for clients to purchase a home, capitalize a small business or transition to post-secondary education. Since CAS began offering AFI in 2012, 36 people have graduated from the program and 39 individuals are currently active savers.

Community Action is a locally designated and implemented anti-poverty effort performed by Community Action Agencies across the country. The 41 member agencies of the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania serve 64 counties in Pennsylvania. Agencies leverage federal Community Service Block Grant funding to attract additional financial support and resources to continue the fight against poverty.