In the beginning.....
On May 18, 1965, Tri-County Opportunities Council, Community Action Agency, was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in the State of Illinois for the following purposes:
Although the Articles of Incorporation have been amended three times (1978, 1981, 1983) in order to add new counties, the mission has remained essentially the same.
TCOC had a number of dedicated, interested supports, its formation was not without controversy. Editorals, news articles and letters to the editor used such phrases as "wasting money," "giveaway program," "will damage their (poor people's) desire to be self-sustaining," "something for nothing," "glamorizes and regards laziness." One man even went so far to ask "why would the agency look for the poor when all one has to do is hold out money and they will come!'
But the group of founders and supports persevered. A Board was formed consisting of 30 individuals (10 from each county); office space obtained at the Rock Falls High School and a grant was written.
The first funding for the fledging Community Action Agency (CAA) was granted by the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) on December 3, 1965, in the amount of $34,839 which paid for a director and staff who would conduct a survey of the conditions of poverty and resulting needs in the three counties. The community action goal of stimulating local communities into mobilizing their own resources to combat their own local problems became, at that point, a reality.
By October, 1966, Tri-County Opportunities Council, small and new as it was, had accomplished some amazing feats:
Community Action Agency
As time went on……..
Until 1975, Tri-County Opportunities Council was just that – a three community action agency under the regulatory authority of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Major programs operated during this time included a Poverty Survey (1965), Foster Grandparents (1966), Neighborhood Youth Corps (1966), Rural Resource Center/Outreach Services (1967), Head Start (1967) and Family Planning (1972).
In 1975, the OEO was changed to the Community Services Administration (CSA) with resulting minor changes in philosophy and program direction. During the same year, TCOC expanded beyond its three counties with the addition of the Homemaker/Chore-Housekeeping Program which provided services to residents of Carroll County also. The following year (1976) saw the beginning of the Weatherization Program, but it was in 1977 that the agency underwent its most major change.
The winter of 1976-77 had been a particularly severe one and, as a result, Congress appropriated funds for the first of a series of energy assistance programs, money that would be regulated by the states. Illinois chose to make this assistance available to all low-income residents of the state and, so, had to expand the areas covered by the CAAs. TCOC was asked to serve not only its own three counties by Bureau, Carroll, LaSalle, and Putnam as well. Not only did this more than double the agency’s geographic area but funding increased dramatically. In fact, 30 new employees were hired in just two days!
The year 1981 also saw dramatic changes. The Community Services Administration (CSA) was dismantled and the funds, along with the regulatory authority for CAAs, were given to the states as the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). Stark and Marshall Counties, by resolution of their county boards, also became part of TCOC’s area in 1981.
Under all of its regulatory authorities – OEO, CSA, CSBG, CAAs like TCOC were mandated to have a tripartite Board of Directors (equal representation of public, private and low-income sectors) and had to have been designated a CAA by the appropriate governing authority of the areas covered. Such designation, but the county boards, had been completed earlier by the original three counties; the remainders were so designated during 1981-82. Tri-County was now “triple Tri-County!”