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NC Community Action Agencies: Showing the Love Year Round

North Carolina's Community Action Agencies "show the love" to their communities year-round. (mariask/
North Carolina's Community Action Agencies "show the love" to their communities year-round. (mariask/
February 12, 2016

LILLINGTON, N.C. - With Valentine's Day just two days away, many North Carolinians are looking for ways to "show the love" to friends and family - but North Carolina's 37 community-action agencies do that 365 days a year in the communities they serve.

At least 92,000 people annually receive assistance, securing employment and accessing resources available. The Johnston-Lee-Hartnett Community Action agency in Lillington helps folks every day, and executive director E. Marie Watson said the work it does is a labor of love.

"What people don't realize is that this is a mission, it's not necessarily a job, and when you're on a mission you want to make sure that you get it all completed and you can see results," she said. "That's what we do. We see a lot of results with the people we serve."

According to the North Carolina Community Action Association, 1.7 million people live in poverty in the Tar Heel State and, of those, one in four is a child. By helping clients advance in their jobs and communities, Watson said, community-action agencies reduce the costs to public assistance because they help people help themselves.

In recent years, Watson said, her agency and others are seeing an increasing number of people who have jobs and still need help making ends meet, since many employers still are not paying a living wage.

"We're seeing people that are working, a lot of people that are working," she said. "They're not making a livable wage, but they're working, and they still can't keep up with the cost of living."

Community Action agencies were created in 1964 as part of the Economic Opportunity Act. They were created to connect people with resources and bridge the gap between public programs and the communities they serve.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC