Community action agencies to meet

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Office of Human Concern in Rogers will host the statewide annual conference of the 16 private, nonprofit community action agencies May 26-28 at the Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas in Rogers. About 200 people from throughout the state and country are expected to attend.

As part of the conference, the state Legislative Task Force on Reducing Poverty and Promoting Economic Opportunity will conduct a town hall meeting from 2-4 p.m. May 26 to help develop a more coordinated, comprehensive effort to reduce poverty, which affects more than 17 percent of the state's population, according to the latest census figures. State Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock and Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, are co-chairs of the task force.

Office of Human Concern Executive Director Al West said in a news release that the task force meeting is open to the public and urged people of all ages and every sector to attend, adding that the information gathered will be shared with legislators "to help them shape legislation and policies that will affect all of us."

The office, which serves Benton, Carroll, and Madison counties, and the other community action agencies injected $126 million into communities throughout the state in the last year to help more than 237,000 people of low and moderate income gain the basic necessities and work toward economic self-sufficiency.

The agencies, established under landmark national legislation approved in 1964 to reduce poverty, were bolstered by millions of dollars in additional funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which allowed them to expand work and help many more Arkansans.

West, who also is president of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said in the news release that the agency's staff, board, and many partners are "delighted to have the opportunity to host this most-important conference, at a time when community action is needed more than ever."

The Office of Human Concern, which has a budget of more than $5 million and employs about 100 people, helped nearly 9,000 people in the last year through more than a dozen programs, including intensified efforts to reduce hunger and help people get jobs.

Other speakers at the conference will include Rogers Mayor Steve Womack; Rose Adams, executive director of the Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association; David Bradley of the National Community Action Foundation; and Lydia Joseph-George of Fort Smith, a magazine editor.

Workshops will instruct in a wide range of subjects of vital importance to the progress of community action, including leadership, fiscal management, case management, food and nutrition, board protocol, client services, results-oriented management and accountability, and communications.

More information about community action or the conference may be obtained by calling the office at (479) 636-7301.

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