History Of Community Action

Helping Some for the Prosperity of All

President Lyndon B. Johnson, who grew up amid poverty in Texas, sympathized with the plight of the poor and believed the United States government could and should do something about it. On March 16, 1964 our 36th President declares a “War on Poverty” in America.

“The war on poverty is not a struggle simply to support people, to make them dependent on the generosity of others. It is a struggle to give people a chance. It is an effort to allow them to develop and use their capacities, as we have been allowed to develop and use ours, so that they can share, as others share, in the promise of this nation.”

President Johnson’s address to Congress in March 1964



The Great Society

With the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, a Committee at Large meeting was held at the Billings City Recreation Offices to establish a local anti-poverty agency which would engage the entire community, particularly low-income residents, in addressing causes and conditions of poverty.

In 1965 Community Action Programs (CAPs) were created across the nation. The CAPs were tasked with providing local level, community-based, advocacy for the poor and were provided the means to shape anti-poverty initiatives. At its inception, funds from the Federal Office of Economic Opportunity were provided under Director Sargent Shriver, to support trips for children in poverty, remedial reading programs, job counseling, and for dependent daycare services.


Timeline of HRDC Community Action Agency

1966

Articles of Incorporation filed with the Montana Secretary of State for Community Action Program (CAP) of Billings and Yellowstone County.

Facility is located at 1803 Virginia Lane.

1967

Received nonprofit IRS exemption. Relocate to 2714 Montana Avenue.

Programs offered: Head Start, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Community Outreach, Family Planning, Job Corps/VISTA.

1968

Billings City Council passes a resolution designating the CAP of Billings and Yellowstone County as the area’s Community Action Agency.

1973

CAPS’s receive telegram stating funding for CAP’s is gone. Some CAP’s close their doors.

Funding has not ended; the Office of Economic Opportunity ended and the Community Services Agency is created.

1974

Federal Office of Economic Opportunity becomes Community Services Administration.

1975

Community Action Program of Billings and Yellowstone County becomes District 7 Human Resource Development Council (HRDC).

Service region expands to include Big Horn, Carbon, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Yellowstone counties.

HRDC creates the ASK Directory as a community resource tool.

1977

Fire destroys HRDC offices at 2714 Montana Avenue.

Move to 2518 First Avenue North.

Transportation help for elderly and low-income residents in Carbon County begins.

Summer Feeding Program begins for low-income children. Program continues through the summer of 1980 and expands to 8 feeding sites.

Green Thumb Project begins with plans for a greenhouse in Ballantine.

1978

Community Gardens created in Billings.

HRDC organizes Neighborhood Councils in three target areas of Yellowstone County.

1979

Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) receives funding.

HRDC is active in establishing WIC programs in Carbon, Stillwater and Sweet Grass Counties.

Establish emergency food box program providing free food for people in emergency situations.

1980

Childcare Resource and Referral Program begins in Yellowstone County.

1981

Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) Act created.

Federal Community Services Administration becomes the Office of Community Services.

HRDC expands to 17 North 31st Street; where all programs eventually move under one roof.

1983

Talks begin about constructing South Park Senior Citizens Center for low-income elderly citizens.

1984

Commodity Cheese program starts – cheese and butter distributed to over 5,000 families each month.

Groundbreaking for the South Park Senior Citizens Center – CEO Visser is named chairman of fundraising committee.

1985

South Park Senior Citizens Center completed. Labor is donated by the Central Labor Council.

Childcare receives $20,000 in funding through the City of Billings to create a scholarship program.

Childcare Resource and Referral receives first contract with the State of Montana to provide referrals in our 5 county area; providing options to parents in need of quality childcare.

HRDC processes 1,300 Low Income Energy Assistance applications providing $483,130 in energy assistance.

1986

HRDC celebrates 20 years of service to the community.

Kay Foster, Deputy Mayor of the City of Billings, declares March 31st as District 7 HRDC day in Billings.

1987

HRDC opens Food Bank Collection Center.

Families For Self-Sufficiency (FFSS) Program begins as a pilot project; offering voluntary training to families receiving AFDC that includes components in education, job training and mental health counseling.

1989

HRDC is contracted to operate Crow Food Distribution program for Big Horn County.

1990

Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program begins as state-wide program from the FFSS pilot.

HRDC offers new provider orientation for childcare providers.

1991

HRDC provides North Park School bus transportation to McKinley.

HRDC celebrates 25th anniversary.

1992

HRDC purchases the building at 7 North 31st Street.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds start Montana Conservation Corps (MCC).

Childcare receives funding for a provider resource library.

Micro-business loan program begins.

1993

Remodel 1st floor for programs.

HRDC and United Way launch a 10-part video series on choosing quality childcare – runs from January to November.

HRDC has licensed professional counselors on staff to assist program participants and the public on a sliding-scale fee.

Congress passed the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) in response to a renewed emphasis on accountability.

1994

Begin operations of the Green House in Ballantine.

Second floor of HRDC building completed with HUD funds at the request of Senator Conrad Burns.

Basement kitchen, bathroom and conference room in HRDC building are completed.

Amendment to the CSBG Act, the Monitoring and Assessment Task Force (MATF) created and produced the Six National Goals and framework for family, agency, and community scales.

Results-Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA) implementation was voluntary.

1995

Move remaining outlying program offices into remodeled 3rd floor offices.

Childcare begins provider grants and merit pay — 112 providers receive grants and 58 providers receive merit pay.

HRDC offers on-site daycare.

1996

Welfare Reform begins under President Clinton. Montana launches Families Achieving Independence in Montana (FAIM).

Wait list for families for the Block Grant and At-Risk Child Care programs.

HRDC begins Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) support groups for parents raising children with ADD/ADHD.

ROMA is required for federally funded programs to demonstrate measurable outcomes.

1997

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) begins, reimbursing child care providers for serving nutritious meals.

Receive Growth Thru Art, disabled artist program, from Billings Zonta Club.

Due to Welfare Reform there are no more transitional or at-risk programs. Job Supplemental non-FAIM Block Grant replaces it.

1998

CSBG Act was reauthorized with specific reference to performance based reported.

Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) is replaced by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

Child care begins processing Legally Unregistered Provider (LUP) applications.

1999

Purchase buildings at 3116 First Avenue North for: Growth Thru Art studio, Youth Employment, Mental Health Counseling.

2000

Process 3,941 Low Income Energy Assistance applications providing $1,474,609 in energy assistance.

Child care hosts first annual Stand for Children event.

2001

Mandatory performance reporting begins October.

Open satellite office in Hardin at 201 West 4th Street; housing child care and WIA programs.

2002

HRDC reaches 99 employees serving a 5-county region

2005

National Indicators of Community Action Performance become mandatory as a standard way of reporting.

2006

HRDC celebrates 40th anniversary.

Family Economic Security Program begins through DPHHS Individual Development Accounts (IDA’s). Financial literacy classes are offered at HRDC.

2008

HRDC opens Harmony House, a maternity group home for homeless pregnant young women.

2009

HRDC has 129 employees in 5 county service region.

Obama administration renews Focus on Results.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus funding) provides: Alternative Education, Wheels for Work, Homeless Prevention Rapid re-housing Program (HPRP), Weatherization.

2012

Growth Thru Art moves to AWARE Inc.

HRDC creates Alternative Education learning center with the support of Western Security Bank Hands of Hope grant.

HRDC partners with Volunteers of America to serve veterans who are homeless or are at-risk of homelessness.

Youth IDA program begins.

Youth Employment/GED Preparation Program is offered for the first time to youth in the Yellowstone judicial system who would not qualify otherwise.