OACAC celebrates community action

Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Members of the public enjoyed lunch and fellowship at OACAC’s Barry County Neighborhood Center’s Open House event to celebrate National Community Action Month in May. Contributed photo

Center supervisor: ‘We can help our community, and I love that opportunity’

Community action means different things, but for staff at the Ozark Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC) Barry County Neighborhood Center, it boils down to one thing — helping people in practical, meaningful ways that impact their lives.

To celebrate Community Action Month, the Center hosted a drop-in style Open House on May 23 for the public, providing lunch, door prizes and fellowship.

Attendees from OACAC’s Barry County Neighborhood Center event in May 23 to celebrate National Community Action Month jotted down what community action meant to them. Some answers: “Providing hope and peace of mind;” “A hand up not a hand out;” and “Putting thoughts and ideas into action.” Contributed photo

“It was National Community Action Month, and our executive director asked us to have an open house to celebrate what community action means to us and the community,” said Gail Reed, Center supervisor. “Jim Fohn donated some meat for us so we fixed a lunch and invited partners and people we serve and fed them lunch and had some door prizes to celebrate that community action is alive and well has been since 1964.

“We had a pretty good turnout and got to make some new friends and met some new people that can take advantage of our services. It was a good experience.”

Helping the community is meaningful to Reed, who has been putting that concept into action in her position for 25 years.

“To me, community action is so many different things, because we are able to serve individuals and families,” she said. “Our mission is to enrich the lives of others and empower people to make positive change. [For example], I love the VOICE (Vocational Opportunities Inspiring Children in Elementary) and REALL (Reality Enrichment And Life Lessons) programs, because if we can get our kids to think about getting a different job, open up avenues to think about what they want to be, and can encourage even one kid to stay in school — we’ve done our job.

“Those and other projects I’ve been involved in over the years mean a lot to me. From the individuals we help with Head Start, housing weatherization and foster grandparents, or the things we do here at the Center like Life Skill classes that teach people things they need to live a better life. We do a lot of things. So I think it’s everything all together. I don’t know of any other agency that does so many things to help so many people.”

For Life Skills classes, Reed has invited speakers in for a variety of topics, including insurance and safety, and classes based on “Love and Logic” techniques are available to help parents.

“I think it’s really important to give that knowledge to people, because knowledge is power,” Reed said. “So, community action gives me the ability to help people. We can help our community, and I love that opportunity.”

The next community-based projects for the Center are its clothing giveaway and school fair.

“The clothing giveaway is always fun for the community,” Reed said. “And the school fair is the most rewarding thing that we do. It’s always so exciting to get those kids’ supplies and backpacks.”

On June 14, the Center will host a VOICE event for Exeter school children, providing them with information from local professionals about career opportunities they might want to explore.

The Center’s programs are funded through federal community service block grants that are disbursed that the Center then contracts with the state to receive, Reed said.

OACAC Neighborhood Centers are located in 10 counties throughout the Ozarks, including Barry. In Missouri alone, 19 Community Action Program (CAP) agencies exist.

For more information about any of OACAC’s services and programs, or to inquire about volunteering, call 417-847-2140.

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