The past year has been exhilarating for District 4 HRDC. Buffalo Court is nearly complete and partially occupied. The Havre Food bank received a $50,000 grant from WalMart to build an addition in order to increase the number of food boxes we are able to distribute and to teach people how to prepare a meal with items from the food bank. We entered into a partnership with the Hill County Health Department through a grant they received to plan for a home visitating program. We entered into a partnership with Bear Paw Development to assist the City of Havre's revolving home rehabilitation program. We will continue a partnership with Hill County through a grant they received to better serve victims of domestic violence and hold perpetrators accountable. It is our partnerships that give us strength and ensure our future. According to Don Mathis, Executive Director of the Community Action Partnership (national organization of CAPs) we should anticipate a scarcity of dollars - we know that the money to States and Community Action Agencies will be less than it has been. In order to remain viable and to continue to assist people to prosperity we need to consider the following:
Measuring Outcomes - There is a mounting drive and demand for measuring outcomes. "In God we trust and everyone else brings data." Montana has a leg up in that we have the Central Database System (CDS) data entry program. It gives us universal data for the entire state. however, we must improve our ability to show/somehow measure that people's lives change for the better through our services.
Messaging - Again and again we are hearing "CAP agencies need to improve their messaging." For example, when FEMA and Red Cross swoop into a disaster area, they receive headline news but the CAP agency who was assisting before the disaster and is still picking up the pieces well after everyone else is gone receives little credit. No one hears of their long-term efforts. We need to change our message from anti-poverty to promoting economic security. My personal stolen elevator speech is "I work at HRDC and we change peoples lives for the better through..."
Partnerships - It is imperative that the agencies work together to get dollars to impact low income families and promote prosperity. I believe thoroughly in partnering and HRDC has a binder full of MOUs and contracts that are updated annually. We must loop those partnerships back to measuring outcomes and prove as a community that we do assist one another in becoming successful.
Karen Thomas, Executive Director