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The Community Action Program of Lancaster County was founded and incorporated in 1966 as a non-profit organization by a group of community leaders chaired by the late Richard Oblender. CAP was started in cooperation with the Lancaster County Community Council, a predecessor to the United Way. The initial focus of the organization was to educate local business and community leaders on the nature of poverty in Lancaster County. In addition, CAP's founders felt it was important to move beyond the provision of public assistance and to develop a new community mechanism to help low income families become self-sufficient and move out of poverty.
The goals of the Community Action Program are fourfold. First, CAP is to be an organization that mobilizes resources, both public and private, to deal with the causes of poverty, not merely its effects. The Community Action Program's role is to provide financial assistance to the poor, but also to enable the poor to become self-sufficient.
Second, the Community Action Program is to be a program, which provides services, assistance and other activities of sufficient size and scope to give the promise of progress to the elimination of poverty. This may happen at an individual, family or neighborhood level and is accomplished through the development of employment opportunities, the improvement of human performance, productivity and motivation and the bettering of conditions under which low-income families live, learn and work.
Third, Community Action seeks to strengthen the community's capabilities for planning and coordinating federal, state and private sector resources related to the elimination of poverty. CAP seeks to work in partnership with elected officials, other non-profits, governmental agencies, community groups, churches and the private sector to accomplish its mission.
Finally, Community Action is to be developed, conducted and administered with the "maximum feasible participation of the poor". Participation means both the training and employment of the poor in service delivery jobs as well as their participation on policymaking groups, including the CAP Board of Directors. Through this participation, it is believed that low-income persons can increase their involvement in other community policymaking groups, including elective offices.