Opportunity Council Takes ‘Community Action’ Against Poverty
Each year in May we celebrate Community Action Month. On May 4th, Bucks County Opportunity Council was honored by the Bucks County Board of Commissioners with a proclamation to celebrate Community Action Month in Bucks County. Community Action emerged from the heart of President Lyndon B Johnson’s 1964 proclamation of America’s “War on Poverty.” There are over 1,000 Community Action Agencies nationwide. These agencies are robust, national, state, and local forces, reaching children and families in 99% of America’s counties with life-changing services that create pathways to opportunity and prosperity. BCOC has been Bucks County’s designated anti-poverty non-profit for 57 years.
BCOC builds and promotes economic stability as an essential aspect of enabling and enhancing stronger communities, which in turn promotes self-sufficiency, ensuring that all Bucks County residents can live in dignity. We also envision a vibrant organization and community where people of all races can achieve economic security. Last year, BCOC assisted over 57,000 Bucks County residents across five program areas: Economic Self-Sufficiency (ES), Housing, Food, Tax Assistance, and Weatherization. The Food program distributed 3.5 million pounds of food. Housing Services helped 2,658 people avoid eviction. Over 250 homes received home energy conservation services through BCOC, and our volunteer income tax services prepared more than 1,150 tax returns.
This past April, BCOC’s ES program celebrated its 25th graduating class, the first in-person celebration since 2019. These 14 graduates bring the program’s new total to 1,037 people in 373 households. The 2022 class began the program with an average annual income of $14,211. In the 39 months’ average time it took for the class to graduate, its members increased their income to an average of $49,906. Each graduate’s journey is unique, but one graduate, who told her story of her on graduation night, shared that she had been through an abusive relationship that lasted more than a decade. She felt defeated, alone, and at rock bottom when she left with virtually nothing. She came to BCOC for some help and left her first meeting with her with some hope. “My coach asked me what my dream was, and I thought that was a crazy question, I don’t dream anymore. I came back a second time and said I’d always wanted to be a nurse, and my coach and I got to work on a plan that day. Today, I am a nurse, I have achieved my dream, and you can too.”
The key to self-sufficiency is acquiring the additional education and training necessary to earn a living wage. To continue to build those resources, BCOC has evolved its relationship with Bucks County Community College to kickstart a “Coaches on Campus” initiative. This collaboration will allow BCOC to integrate with student services on BCCC’s main campus in Newtown. Our staff will offer coaching, financial support, and resources to students who are already making strides to better their education and future stories.
Community partnerships, like the one with the Community College, are the reason that BCOC can provide this level of support to the low and moderate-income residents of Bucks County. Without our community supporters and partner agencies in place, BCOC wouldn’t be Community Action. As Community Action Month ends, we want to thank this community for its support and investment in the future. Our work is breaking the cycle of poverty for many families, but we could not do it without your support. Thank you!