PORTSMOUTH- Community Action Agencies (CAAs) across the country are celebrating this month, as they recognize their vast programming for Community Action Month, which takes place every year in May. Our local organization is no different, as they boast massive programming and functions that span the direction and vision of Executive Director Steve Sturgill and directors Sarah Sloan, Randy Cooper, Angie Davis, and Luanne Valentine, as well as a team of managers, coordinators, and support staff.
Community Action Agency (CAO) of Scioto County has not only been sustaining regular operations across the board but has been working on rebranding the Welcome Center as the CAO of Scioto County Welcome Center, which is home to many integral area non-profits and businesses, as well as one of the few community centers in the area; has been expanding on community development and housing efforts; growing social programming and more.
“The Community Action Organization of Scioto County has been working especially hard these days to not only provide excellent services that are much needed to our community, but also broadening our outreach to better showcase direct services and partnered opportunities,” Executive Director Steve Sturgill said. “We serve the community through workforce needs, social services, health and nutrition services, energy services, education, community development, housing, and more. We are proud that people feel confident and comfortable enough in our brand when they need help to know they can walk through our doors and either directly receive assistance or be navigated in the right direction. We grow every year and that only means we are making living situations that much better for our entire community. That’s something, in my opinion, to be proud of.”
One of the largest programs includes the Early Head Start and Head Start department of operation, which is managed by Director Sarah Sloan.
The division impressively employs 100 staff that serve 422 children and pregnant women. The programming offered provides early childhood education that prepares students and their families for a successful life and educational career as they set out into the world.
“We serve pregnant women and children 0 to 5 in nine centers throughout the county. Children can come to a center and be a part of the school family in a classroom or families may request a Home Visitor,” Sloan said. “Home Visitors work with families in their home.”
Sloan says that the administration views their mission in three parts.
“First, we provide free quality early childhood education. School readiness prepares children for lifelong learning and is our driving goal. We believe that children learn through doing. Our staff prepares the classroom environment for children to play, explore and grow developing their academic and social-emotional skills,” Sloan explained. “Second, we provide family education. We believe that parents are their child’s first teacher. We want to empower families to be their child’s advocate and grow a strong family. We always have an open-door policy and encourage families to be part of their child’s education. Check out our Facebook page to see all the activities we provide for families and their children. Third, we provide job training. Sixty percent of our workforce are parents from our program. Not only do we provide great jobs, but we also provide classes and training for our employees. Every classroom has a teacher with a degree in early childhood education and two assistant teachers with a Child Development Associate. Each family has a Family Service Advocate that works with them to address their social service needs. We believe our staff are always learning as much as our children are!”
One of the most diverse departments is Workforce Solutions, the workforce and community development arm of CAO, managed by Director Luanne Valentine.
The department employs 25 professionals and assists the entire region through its services. It also has over 700 clients enrolled in its program, who directly receive benefits.
“The Workforce Solutions team has been working hard to identify and secure funding and resources that address a variety of customer needs. Whether it’s training to secure a job or move up the ladder, providing a safe place for an infant to sleep, supporting residents as they quit smoking, addressing hunger, or working with businesses to upskill their current workforce, we have a solution,” Director Valentine said. “Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of customers interested in accessing services. We are serving more adult job seekers now than we ever have, at least in my 30-year tenure. The number of interactions we have with the business community continues to grow as do the services we are able to make available to them. And, we now have the benefit of directly working with several local communities in identifying ways to improve the overall health of the people residing there, either through the modernization of parks, expanding emergency services, or developing housing initiatives or improving housing conditions.”
Valentine’s work witnesses 455 adult and youth participants enrolled in an employment or training activity. This is post-secondary training, collegiate or vocational, in an in-demand occupation or paid internship activity in a local work site. The department has 31 individuals who have completed the pre-apprenticeship program, moving on to one of the local trade unions for additional training.
This year, the department has had 20 incumbent workers benefiting from leadership training, over 40 local employers have trained adults and youth through paid internships, and 220 jobs have been posted through the Business Resource Network.