ST. PETERSBURG — The 50th Year Commemorative Breakfast celebrating the “War on Poverty” was held last month at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg.
The event was a huge success in celebrating this momentous occasion, providing greater public awareness of Pinellas Opportunity Council Inc. (POC) and the many services they offer and the life changing impact that their programs have on program participants.
Kelly Ring from Fox 13 WTVT News served as mistress of ceremonies. Those in attendance included elected officials/representatives, community partners, business sponsors, vendors, funding sources, former program participants, former employees, board of directors and staff.
The “Community Action Partnership Award” was presented to the Young Professional Network for their donations, partnership and sponsorships to assist those in need. During the past four years, this organization has donated more than $40,000 in goods and services, and over 300 hours of volunteer time to assist families with Thanksgiving dinners and youth with back-to-school supplies and clothing.
Greetings were delivered by Dr. Linda Hogans, president of POC board of directors. Carl Lavender, Capacity Building Consultant, did an excellent job of soliciting donations from the audience.
Testimonials were provided by Evelyn Madera, a previous Family Development/Self-Sufficiency Program participant, who while enrolled in the program, earned an Associate Degree from St. Petersburg College and is presently working at SPC and Shavell Martin, an honor student in the Pinellas Park High School, Criminal Justice Academy and former participant in the POC Youth Development Program. Each shared how enrollment in these POC programs created such a positive impact on their lives.
January 8 of this year marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s State of the Union address calling on the nation to launch an “unconditional war on poverty.” The War on Poverty put in place an essential society safety net that has helped keep millions of people out of poverty. This safety net included many vital programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Pell Grants and nutrition assistance.
Community Action was born at the enactment of the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964, which created the new community-based organizations called Community Action Agencies (CAA’s). There are 1,100 local CAA’s throughout the country (30 in Florida).
The POC, created in 1968, is the private, non-profit Community Action Agency serving Pinellas County. Over the years POC has been instrumental in establishing several other organizations and programs which help address the needs of low-income and elderly residents in Pinellas County, including: Gulfcoast Legal Services, Pinellas County Urban League, Mobile Geriatric Dental Unit, St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation and Jamestown and Tarpon Springs Day Care Centers.
From 1968 – 2012, POC was the grantee for the Head Start/Early Head Start programs in Pinellas County. In 1978, POC established and helped operate a low-income credit union, the POC Federal Credit Union, which was merged with the Pinellas Federal Credit Union in 2011.
Programs currently operated by POC include: Emergency Financial Assistance, Youth Development/Employment, Family Self-Sufficiency, Life Skills Training, Small Business Start-up, Individual Development Accounts, Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly (EHEAP), Chore Services and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.
Carolyn W. King, POC’s executive director, has served in her current capacity since March 2012. Prior to becoming executive director, she served POC as director of administration, managing the accounting and human resources departments for 36 years.
King is excited about the opportunity to guide the agency into the future building upon POC’s already established history of service delivery with demonstrated tangible outcomes.
While much work has been done, there is still much to do to eradicate poverty in Pinellas County. They are thankful for the community and the many partnerships that assist them in this effort.
The POC continues their commitment to ensure that those persons they were charted to serve continue to receive vital and essential services.