Prairie Five Community Action, Inc. is a private non-profit agency designated as a 501(c)3 by the IRS. Community Action is not part of the state, federal, or county government. Prairie Five employees are not state or federal employees. The Prairie Five board governs the agency and applies to various federal and state organizations and foundations to obtain funding and grants to meet the needs as determined by local communities.
The Board of Directors is made up of 15 members from the five counties served by Prairie Five. One-third are representatives of persons experiencing low income; one-third of elected public officials, and one-third are representative from the private sector. The Board configuration offers the opportunity for needs and priorities to be established by a panel of peers of those being served. This structure moves poverty programs out of the political arena and back to the people for decision making. At the same time, private and public representatives gain a clearer understanding of the issues confronting those in need.
Legislation Creating Community Action
The Economic Opportunity Act was passed on August 20, 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The act was drafted the previous February by task force director Sargent Shriver. After passage the Economic Opportunity Act, Sargent Shriver became the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and served until 1969.
President Johnson’s remarks upon signing the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964:
“My fellow Americans, on this occasion the American people and our American System are making history. For so long as man has lived on this earth, poverty has been his curse…Today for the first time in all the history of the human race a great nation is able to make and willing to make a commitment to escape poverty among its people…Our American answer to poverty is not to make the poor more secure in their poverty but to reach down and to help them lift themselves out of the ruts of poverty and move with the large majority along the high road of hope and prosperity.”
Congress also passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, guaranteeing equal opportunity for all. The Economic Opportunity Act, designed to implement that guarantee, stated in part: is therefore the policy of the United States to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this nation by opening, to everyone, the opportunity for education and training, the opportunity to work, and the opportunity to live in decency and dignity.
The Federal Office of Economic Opportunity led the efforts of the War on Poverty. Economic Opportunity offices at the state level were created in order to involve governors in the effort. Funds were provided by the Office of Economic Opportunity to allow local citizens an opportunity to create Community Action Agencies and use the funds to meet the problems and needs of the poor in their area. These local initiatives were used in a variety of ways.
Organization of Prairie Five Community Action
On April 29, 1965 in Madison, Minnesota an informational meeting was held concerning the organization of the Community Action Agency under the Economic Opportunity Act. On May 19, 1965 an organizational meeting was held in Madison with representatives from Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, and Swift counties present.
It was at this meeting that it was decided that the counties of Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, and Yellow Medicine would form Western Tri-County Community Action. It was decided that the main office would be in Montevideo and one satellite office would be in Madison. Western Tri-County Community Action was incorporated on October 11, 1965.
In July, 1975 the counties of Big Stone and Swift were added to the service delivery area and the name of the agency changed to Prairie Five Community Action Council, Inc. We currently have one office in each of the counties of our service delivery area.