Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hunger Banquet: An Experience to Remember

In March, Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission (NOCAC), with the support of local businesses, caterers and partner organizations, hosted the 2015 Hunger Banquet in Williams County. This banquet was not your typical fundraising event but instead, it was an experience to remember. As guests arrived, they were greeted by individuals holding cardboard signs—not signs that directed them to the venue or the parking lot, but signs that said, “homeless veteran,” “will work for…” and “I used to be someone you could talk to.” A family of four stood next to their truck, with two young teenagers huddled in blankets watching their parents politely ask nearly 200 guests if they could spare some change. Some offered help, though many did not.

A lucky, or unlucky, roll of the die directed guests to their dining area for the evening that ranged from upper-class to poverty. The wealthy were seated at elaborately decorated tables complete with shrimp appetizers and steak dinners while those in poverty were greeted with tables made of pallets and tarp table cloths. The homeless and lower-class watched the wealthy and upper-middle class enjoy steak, chicken and even envied the lower-middle class’s bologna sandwiches while they waited to find out if the soup kitchen would open before the end of the evening.

The Hunger Banquet did not attempt to simply explain what poverty is like, it let guests experience it first-hand. Like a game of chance, families were thrown from the upper-class to lower- class or further when, during the evening, they lost their jobs, got sick, or in one case, were even widowed.
“My husband always took care of everything for me. I didn't know about insurance or that we didn't have any…”

“I worked long hours driving a truck... I fell asleep at the wheel… (sobbing)… I didn't mean to hurt
anyone; I just wanted to provide for my family.”

“I invested everything in that company. Then came the depression… then the addiction… I lost everything I had ever worked for…”
Guests also heard stories of success. Stories of families receiving intensive case-management, securing housing, overcoming their addictions, finding help for their mental illnesses, and overcoming odds and obstacles by getting accepted into college despite being moved from foster home to foster home. Many stories of those helped by Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission (NOCAC) and The PATH Center illustrated the effectiveness of Community Action and how creative solutions are effective in alleviating poverty. NOCAC administers locally controlled programs, creates partnerships and helps low-income families and individuals across six rural counties in Ohio while on their path to self-sufficiency.  The Hunger Banquet was an event to remember and just one of the ways NOCAC works to change the story of poverty in Ohio.

Be sure to check out our video of NOCAC’s 2015 Hunger Banquet! Are you interested in hosting your own Hunger Banquet? Contact Angie Franklin at for more information.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Family Development Certification Training

Family Development is an intense case-management program that establishes a framework to work holistically with those seeking comprehensive services at Community Action agencies. The program encourages work with the entire family with the result leading them to self-sufficiency.

The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) provides certification to Community Action Professionals across the state to become Family Development Specialists (FDS) and Trainers. Regardless of your program specialty (employment, housing, family support, etc.), Family Development certification will provide you with valuable hands-on tools to work with families across all spectrums. Certified Family Development Specialists are better able to focus resources for eligible families to achieve self-sufficiency in many areas such as housing, income and budgeting, transportation, family and social relations, recovery from alcohol and drug abuse, mental and emotion health and much more.

The Family Development program consists of five core areas. They include: 

  1. Joining – Interviewing and dialog skills, building relationships, and cultural competency
  2. Assessment – Assessing family strengths, challenges and resources
  3. Planning – Develop well-formed goals and create plans to reach a family’s vision towards self-sufficiency
  4. Support – Evaluate barriers that may prevent families from moving forward
  5. Linking – Connecting families to community partners by providing effective referrals while continuing to support the family
The three-day training program involves homework on the first two evenings. Participants take part in a Celebration of Knowledge at its conclusion. OACAA is proud to offer CPEs from the State of Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & Marriage and Family Therapist Board to graduates of the program who earn their certification as a Family Development Specialist. The program requires an annual recertification which is also offered by OACAA.

If you are a Community Action Professional and would like to be equipped to effect change in your area by taking part in an OACAA’s Community Action Family Development Specialist Training please contact Lorie McClain at to check for availability of FDS trainings. Classes are typically offered annually. 

Lorie McClain, Program Specialist

Lorie is a certified trainer in the Prep® Within My Reach curriculum, and Love’s Cradle® curriculum, Family Development Specialist and Family Development Specialist Trainer, as well as a certified Personal Financial Teacher. She is directly responsible for managing all of OACAA’s Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) and other funded programs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

State of Poverty in Ohio Report 2014

In cooperation with Community Research Partners (CRP), OACAA released the State of Poverty in Ohio Report on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. The report, which is now available online, aims to illustrate the effects of poverty in an effort to understand economic hardships today and over the last fifty years.

Throughout the report, you will learn about many of the barriers that have kept nearly 32 percent of people in the United States teetering on the edge of, or prevented them from escaping, poverty. You will also learn how the Federal Poverty Measure (FPM), which was developed over fifty years ago, is an insufficient way to measure Americans’ ability to provide basic necessities such as housing and utilities—because the FPM was developed to measure only the minimum food budget. And you will learn more about the challenges people in poverty face when working to overcome the benefits gap while learning to financially manage soaring education debt in order to live a self-sufficient life without public or private assistance.

Utilizing graphics, case studies and data, the report dispels commonly held myths and misconceptions about poverty. The report also illustrates how Community Action agencies utilize a holistic approach to meet the needs of low-income families and individuals while on their unique paths to self-sufficiency. Poverty is a complex issue and cannot be alleviated with simple solutions. We hope this study of poverty and its effect on millions of Ohioans will shine a light on the issues in order to develop long-term solutions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Organizational Standards: IM 138 Released

As many of you have seen, IM 138 was released by the U.S. Office of Community Services (OCS) which provides guidance and responsibilities for the establishment of Organizational Standards for the CSBG Network. These Standards reflect more than two years of work led by the Community Action Partnership. The goal of the Standards is to establish a set of good management practices that every Community Action Agency should meet to demonstrate adequate organizational capacity while delivering services to low-income persons. The 58 Standards are divided into three thematic areas: 1) Maximum Feasible Participation, 2) Vision and Direction, and 3) Operations and Accountability. Together, these areas represent minimum threshold requirements that will ensure the CSBG Network can continue to improve the lives of those we serve.

Some key items to note include:
  • State CSBG lead agencies (Office of Community Assistance/OCA) are responsible for establishing and communicating expectations for organizational standards to eligible entities across a State, assessing the status of Standards among all of the eligible entities annually, and reporting to OCS on the Standards in the CSBG Annual Report
  • In cases where the eligible entity may be able to meet the Standard in a reasonable time frame contingent on some targeted technical assistance, the State and entity may develop a technical assistance plan to target  training and technical assistance resources and outline a time frame for the entity to meet the Standard(s)
  • OCS and States do not have the authority under the CSBG Act to bypass the process described in CSBG IM 116 in order to re-compete CSBG funding based on failure to meet Organizational Standards
  • States must integrate the Standards into their State Plan beginning in FY 2016, which is due to OCS on September 2, 2015
While the IM 138 includes a large number of Standards, many agencies throughout Ohio’s CAA network are already implementing many of them. For others, your state T&TA provider, OCATO, can help. Below are some free resources to get you started on Standards with which you are less familiar. For further assistance, contact Josh Summer.

IM 138 Resources:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2015 Winter Legislative Conference #WLC2015

Last week, the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) hosted the 2015 Winter Legislative Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Nearly 300 Community Action professionals, partners and legislators joined the OACAA board and staff to discuss, learn and inspire each other. New and innovative approaches were pursued as the Community Action Network continued to do what they do best—help people and change lives.

The conference kicked off with visits with state legislators and agencies discussed their progress, ideas, and successes while advocating for their community’s low-income population. That evening, we were joined by several cabinet members, representatives, senators and legislative aides at the Legislative Reception and discussions continued regarding our network’s programs and initiatives to alleviate poverty across Ohio.

Thursday morning began with breakfast and speaker Denise Harlow, chief executive officer of Community Action Partnership, who discussed the newly released Community Action Standards. The Standards were coordinated by the Partnership over a three-year period along with 50 individuals connected to CSBG funding. Following breakfast, five breakout tracks commenced which included Leadership, Fiscal/Human Resources, Family Development, Public Relations, and Weatherization.

During lunch, OACAA was honored to host Governor John Kasich as the keynote speaker during which he released a preview of the next state budget proposal. Included in the preview was the initiative to expand child care assistance to families and individuals at up to 300 percent of the poverty level as opposed to the current 200 percent limit. In addition, Kasich aims to coordinate state services to eliminate barriers to low-income people to increase their successful transition to self-sufficiency.  Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services Director Cynthia Dungey and Office of Human Services Innovations Director Douglas Lumpkin followed the Governor’s speech with additional details.

The conference wrapped up on Friday with a discussion among members and OACAA executive director Philip E. Cole, as well as a federal policy update from speaker David Bradley. Mr. Bradley, co-founder and executive director of National Community Action Foundation, discussed NCAF’s work toward the federal reauthorization of CSBG, which he expects to accomplish in 2015.

Photos from the conference can be viewed on our new Flickr photo feed: OACAA Flickr. OACAA would like to thank all of those throughout Ohio’s 88 counties who participated in this year’s conference. All attendees, speakers, workshop presenters, staff and members of board of trustees played a vital role in the success of the conference. We are excited to begin working on the 2015 OACAA Summer Conference and look forward to seeing you there! Stay up to date with more details for the next conference and other activities by subscribing to our blog.