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64 Years of Reflection
Carver Community Action Agency's 64 Years of Reflection Things that most benefit humankind do not always start a separate social and recreational facility for Black soldiers stationed at nearby Camp Ellis. As the Galesburg Post noted on May 27,1943, in response to the large contingent of Black in Galesburg's Union Station, "until the Negro center is made ready for them here, however the boys may not be encouraged to come to this city for recreation." Thus, until Carver Community Center was created, Black spent their leisure time at the former Mary Bethune Day Nursery School for Black children, which was desig- nated a US0 Center. Later that year, Mrs. Lola Robinson of Rockford, IL, came to Galesburg to serve as Director. Critical to the beginnings of Carver was a subsequent decision to let the community-especially youth-benefit from the US0 Center when it was not being used by soldiers.
The next step was to build a permanent Center; local funds were raised, and Federal funds were approved. The formal opening of the new Center was held Sunday, March 5,1944, at which time it was announced that "by selection of the Negro population, the new facility will hereafter be known as the George Washington Carver Service Center."
The Center received word from the Federal Government that, as of Tune 30,1945, federal funds would no longer be available for operating US0 Service Center #2. However, the government did indicate that the Center could continue to be used as a local community recreation center until the end of the year. The first Constitution of Carver Community Centers was adopted by its Board of Directors in June of 1945, shortly after the government's notification that US0 funds would no longer be available and well before the transfer of the property to the City had been accomplished. The first Constitution lists the following purposes of the new organization.
The purpose of the Organization shall be to promote religious, civic, cultural, industrial recreation interest and activities; to serve all ages and both sexes; to direct character building and community betterment programs among the Negro citizens and provide service to Military Personnel of Galesburg and Knox County in the development of its objectives and work. Its character shall be non-partisan, interracial, non-sectarian, and not operated for financial profit. Since it was the government's policy to encourage local communities to continue operating the former US0 Centers as recreational facilities for local citizens, and since the citizens of the local community desired to do so, negotiations between city officials and the Federal Works Agency were immediately initiated. At its meeting on October 8,1945, the local Community Chest agreed to finance the operation of the Center. There remained the problem of purchasing the Center property itself, which was soon achieved.
So, as of July 19,1946, US0 Service Center #2 became George Washington Carver Community Center, owned by the City of Galesburg, paid for by philanthropic local citizens, and financially supported by the local Community Chest. Subsequent revisions of the Constitution reduced the size of the Board of Directors from 22 members to 16, changed the number and titles of standing committees, and removed all references to race. In 1970, the Constitution of Carver Community Center outlined the purposes of the corporation as follows:
This corporation is devoted to the educational, recreational, and social needs of its community.
A 16 member Board of Directors established the basic policies and supervised the operation of the Center, while the Executive Director, appointed by the Board, took care of the Center's activities on a day-to-day basis. The Board's standing committees were the Executive Building and Grounds, Finance, Ways and Means, Public Relations and Nomination. On the staff, besides the Executive Director, were two part-time adult employees and four part-time student employees. These paid staff members were assisted by a number of community volunteers as the occasion demanded.
Throughout the first twenty-five years of Carver Community Center, a variety of activities were made available to young and old alike. Some of the activities which were of interest to the Center's members over the years were: basketball, baseball, badminton, sewing, dancing, pocket billiards, trips outside Galesburg, tutoring, movies, cheerleading, drill teams, tap-sessions, ping-pong, cards, Center newspaper, volleyball, arts and crafts, ceramics, and a variety of gym and table games. In sum, most of the activities provided for the Galesburg community in 1970 had not changed from the kind of activities found at the Center in 1940's. Historic growth for Carver Center began in the early 1970's, when it sought to expand its traditional programming into a broader modality, Carver Center reached beyond its traditional base of Galesburg, Illinois into not only Knox County, but also into four contiguous counties. It became a subcontract office for the Comprehensive Employment and Training Program under Director Joan Hall, from 1976 to 1983, and had extensive experience with employment and training programs, including offering a Teamster Truck Driving Class through the Springfield Urban League. It also began to provide Weatherization Services. Low-Income Home Energy Assistance; Financial Assistance, Food, Clothing, Emergency Housing, Rental Assistance, Economic Development, Emergency Prescription Service; Summer Youth Employment; Job Search Assistance Programming, and Referral Services. All of these services were provided through the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program, (1976), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, (1978), and the Energy Crisis Intervention Program, (1981), respectively. All of these programs were provided through the auspices of the Illinois De.p artment of Commerce and Community Affairs. The Community Service Block Grant Program, (1982), developed for ECIP, and expanded to include Emergency Food Vouchering Program, Medical Prescription Assistance, Housing Assistance, Utility Assistance, Educational Scholarship Program, support for the Summer Food and Recreation Program, and a small Business Economic Development Loan Program.
During those years, Carver Center continued its' recreational and community programming via funding from the Knox County United Way. The largest of these programs was the Summer Food & Recreation Program, which provided about two hundred economically disadvantaged youth lunch and daily recreational/educational programming. Carver Center was also the proud sponsor of a NCAA Division I1 sanctioned Summer Basketball League. The League provided young athletes throughout the region the opportunity to enhance their skills during the summer months. Tutorial Services, the Saturday Morning Education Program, and the housing of the Regional Knoxville Youth Basketball League rounded out Carver Center's evening community programming.
In 1982 the Knox County Board of Directors approved the designation of Carver Center as the Community Action Agency of Knox County. Carver Community Action Agency not only continued to provide the aforementioned services, but also expanded its programs to provide the following; housing and related ancillary services to the homeless, job training programming to WIN registrants, job Skills Training to youth via such programs as the Job Training Partnership Act, the Emergency Housing Program (McKinney Act), and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. It also became a site for the Senior Citizens Nutrition Program.
In 1990, under the direction of Jeannie Shelton, Carver Community Action Agency decided that it was imperative that it seek avenues for providing affordable housing for low - - and moderate income families in Knox County, approaching the problem by talking local initiatives and utilizing- state housing- initiatives. Utilizing- the Community Reinvestment Act, Carver C.A.A. established a Community Investment Committee comprised of representatives from local financial institutions, the City of Galesburg, Carl Sandburg College, JTPA, and the Knox County Board of Realtors. The Community Investment Committee assisted Carver Community Action Agency by providing the funding to purchase a transitional housing facility for the agency. Since then it has worked closely with the Agency by providing a pool of lowinterest loans for Carver Community Action Agency to purchase rental housing for the lowincome families in Knox County. The committee is also instrumental in assisting the Agency with its first-time Home Ownership Program for low-income families. They have provided instruction for the Home Ownership Program, and are providing low-cost loans to the graduates of that program.
In addition, Carver C.A.A., has been certified as a Community Housing Development organization by the Illinois Housing Development Authority. It has received, via the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the first Home Grant in the state. This project involved the rehabilitation of five properties. 10 units of housing, furthermore, Carver C.A.A. has received both technical and financial assistance from the Housing Assistance Council. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs assisted Carver C.A.A.'s Housing Programs by such initiatives as the Housing Initiative Leveraging Program and use of recaptured principle from the Community Service Block Grant Program. Carver C.A.A. Housing programs have been assisted by the United States Department of Housing &Urban Development's Single- Family Property Disposition Program.
As well during these years Carver C.A.A. sought all available services for developing safe affordable housing for moderate and low income families. An opportunity to become a member of the Rural Local Initiative Support Corporation came available. Carver C.A.A. submitted an application to become a member of this nationally recognized renowned Housing Development Corporation. We were accepted and became the 1st Core member from Illinois. Rural LISC provided valuable financial and technical support for Carver Housing Development Project.
Carver C.A.A. has been very active, for nearly two decades now, in providing comprehensive services for homeless families and individuals. The agency provides homeless services through its Emergency Food & Shelter Program and the Continuum of Care Transitional Supportive Housing Program. The Continuum of Care Transitional Housing Program is currently, our largest effort to address the homeless problem in Knox County. "Carver Transitions" as the program and facility are known houses up to fifteen families. The . - primary population focus is members of the Recovering Community and Homeless Veterans. The agency has helped dozens of homeless families to self-sufficiency through Carver Transitions.
In 1993, Carver C.A.A.'s Board of Directors revisited our Illinois nonprofit charter. At that time, it passed a resolution to amend the purpose of Carver Community Action Agency. - - - . The agency's purpose is now as follows: The purpose of the Agency is to promote education, social, cultural, economic and recreational activities to Knox County's low and moderate income citizens in accordance with the Illinois Housing Act.
Carver C.A.A. currently owns 23 units of rental housing. Carver C.A.A.'s development - strategy is aggressive real estate development as economic development. It's Directorial staff are in agreement that the provision of affordable, decent, safe housing and establishing home ownership opportunities have been two of the most under-utilized empowerment tools of the 1990's.
In regard to housing development, Carver C.A.A. is studying the advantages of "spinning off", its housing development activities into an affiliate or subsidiary-type arrangement. This arrangement would include committees with significant numbers of lowincome representatives.
Carver Community Action Agency was created to empower poor people, and has been an advocate for them for many years. All training programs, projects and activities sponsored or hosted by the Agency have been with the purpose of empowering people. Carver C.A.A.'s tripartite Board structure assists in the empowerment of people with low income. The Board training that the members receive provides the knowledge and expertise to not only influence the decisions of the Agency, but to take back organizing skills to their neighborhood.
Carver C.A.A. also hosts the Galesburg African American Support Group. This group consists of local "minority" citizens working together to impact policy decisions of various public bodies throughout the city. Most recently the group has pursued goals of educational and cultural significance.
Overall, Carver C.A.A., is proud of its achievements in empowering poor people and utilizing their talents in the process. Carver C.A.A. seeks the opportunity, through all of its activities, to assist the people whom it serves in becoming community leaders. This historical sketch of Carver Community Action Agency indicates that the Center has undergone significant changes during its first fifty years. The Center began as an institution designed to serve the needs of Blacks during World War 11, and received almost all of its financial support from the Galesburg Chapter of the United Way Fund. Particular programs and services have come and gone, and the staff and membership have changed.
But it also indicates that, in many important ways, it has remained the same. The Center has always been primarily concerned with service and it has always relied upon the moral and financial support from the volunteer services of the people of the local community. If the Center is to continue providing valuable services to the community, the support of all of the people in Galesburg will be even more important in the future than it has been in the past. Carver Community Action Agency is currently one of the only sources for activities and guidance for a large segment of Galesburg's younger population. Yet, the Center means more than just "fun and games" to its participants. It is often a home away from home. It is an avenue by which young (and the young at heart), gather to provide social outlets. It is a symbol of pride, a monument to history. It is a repository for the past, yet it is the dream of the future. Carver Community Action Agency is.. . HOPE.
The program provides once in a lifetime financial assistance for rent arrearages, 1" months' rent, security deposits, and utility arrearages. The household must be facing an economic crisis, (job loss, natural disaster, medical emergency, loss of public assistance, etc.), which could result in the family/individuals being homeless. The household must be able to verify that they can meet housing/living costs, thereafter, before assistance can be given. There are more details to this program and this information here is for basic information only. Contact the Agency for complete details.