On May 2, Southeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership, Inc. (SENCA) celebrated its 47th anniversary of providing a variety of self-sufficiency programs and services to low-income residents in the counties of Cass, Johnson, Nemaha, Otoe, Pawnee and Richardson. May is also celebrated nationwide as National Community Action Month.
SENCA was incorporated in 1966 by Evelyn Cooper of Humboldt and Cecil Davis of Pawnee City as a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation for the purpose of “developing and operating any and all community action programs and activities including, but not limited to those authorized or permitted by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.” SENCA is one of nine Community Action Agencies in Nebraska.
The Economic Opportunity Act was passed during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson as one facet of the nationwide anti-poverty movement begun by President John F. Kennedy. Section Two of the Act states “to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this Nation by opening to everyone the opportunity for education and training, the opportunity to work, and the opportunity to live in decency and dignity.” The Community Services Administration was then formed to oversee these programs, with Sargent Shriver, President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, founding numerous social programs and organizations, including Community Action and Head Start.
During the 1970s, SENCA was instrumental in partnering with various groups and organizations working to help create new jobs for low-income workers, establish Well Child Clinics, nutrition programs, including a congregate meal program, initialize a “winterization program” and implementation of the Johnson County Handi-bus.
In the 1980s, SENCA experienced significant growth. The Pawnee County Handi-bus began operation in 1981, Community Centers were established in Pawnee City and Tecumseh, the Head Start program expanded, Home Energy Management began in 1982 and weatherization expanded into Sarpy County in 1985.
The 1990s brought continued expansion to the Head Start program, the Richardson County Handi-bus went into service and the SENCA Housing Program grew. SENCA became a Community Housing Development Organization and the Elk Creek Senior Housing Complex was purchased.
As the new Millennium began, SENCA purchased Countryside Apartments in Sterling, Fulton Villa Apartments in Falls City and partnered with Timber Ridge Apartments in Nebraska City. SENCA became a REACH affiliate educator, developed an agency-wide strategic plan, implemented the SENCA HOMES first-time homebuyer program and established a Youth Mentoring program. In addition, SENCA established the 1st annual Benefit Golf Tournament and the 1st annual Head Start Track and Field Day event.
Since 2010, SENCA has implemented a weekend Back Pack program in Head Start Centers and partnered with area businesses to provide Back Pack programs in local schools. SENCA has developed and implemented the SENCA SMART Financial Literacy Program for 8th and 12th grade students, began the SENCA IDA (Individual Development Account) program and expanded the weatherization program, adding Douglas County in 2012.
SENCA is managed by a volunteer board of directors, with Vicky McNealy serving as executive director. The SENCA team consists of 75 dedicated individuals working together with the combined mission of: “Investing in our Neighbors through Education and Partnerships to Improve Lives and Build Strong Communities in Southeast Nebraska.”
To learn more about SENCA visit www.senca.org or “like” SENCA on Facebook at www.Facebook/Senca1