West CAP’s History and Accomplishments

West CAP is one of approximately 1,100 Community Action Agencies in the United States. These organizations were created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, planned by the administration of President John F. Kennedy, and then passed into law under the Johnson administration.

Kennedy’s initiative was motivated by the writing of Michael Harrington in the ‘The Other America’ – a study of poverty in America. The 1964 Economic Opportunity Act created a number of anti-poverty programs, including: Head Start program, various job training programs, VISTA, Community Food and Nutrition programs, and others. Community Action Agencies were designed by the Act to operate anti-poverty programs in their communities and to serve as a catalyst for local planning and advocacy.

West CAP—West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency, Inc. – came to life in 1965, following the authorizing resolutions of seven area counties: Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix. West CAP was organized as a non-profit corporation with a local board of directors. Under current law, that board is composed in equal thirds of democratically selected low-income members, representatives of county government, and representatives from community businesses and organizations.

The corporation was initially located in Menomonie, on the campus of UW-Stout. It rapidly outgrew the “little pink house” rented from Stout and moved into a former bank building and adjacent offices in downtown Menomonie. Further growth led to a search for long-term premises. Glenwood City offered to build a facility. In 1972, West CAP moved to its present location at 525 Second Street in downtown Glenwood City. In the early 1980s, the former legion building in Glenwood City was purchased and converted into office space and warehouse facilities for the HomeWorks Program.

West CAP also maintains an office in Menomonie.

West CAP’s history includes a long list of innovative “firsts”:

Established one of the nation’s first Parent-Child Center programs (Head Start)

The first rural Family Planning program in Wisconsin (1972)

The first Weatherization program funded by the Community Services Administration (1974)

Operated a program to purchase and resell wood stoves at cost during the energy crisis of 1975

Provided one of the nation’s first demonstration Solar Utilization, Economic Development and Education projects

Implemented a model Fuel Assistance Program (now LIHEAP)

West CAP received a Department of Energy award for “cocoon” demonstration program of mobile home superinsulation

Received the first Housing Preservation grant in Wisconsin

Implemented a regional TEFAP emergency food assistance program

West CAP operated one of 24 national demonstration programs in Comprehensive Child Development (became Early Head Start in 1988)

Established the innovative Families in Transition program to provide rent subsidies and supportive services to homeless and at-risk families (1988)

West CAP received designation as a Community Housing Development Organization in 1992, and through 2003 has developed 163 units of affordable housing

Initiated the JumpStart Transportation program to assist low-income households in obtaining financing to purchase a good quality car (1998).
JumpStart is now recognized as a national model for solving the real world transportation needs of low-income families

Developed Crossroads Center in downtown Menomonie (2000), providing a small business incubator, flexible manufacturing facility for food entrepreneurs, a site for produce distribution to food pantries, and a market location for area farmers and artisans