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Community Action Lehigh Valley

Our program featured Dawn Godshall, who is the Executive Director of Community Action Lehigh Valley. Community Action Lehigh Valley is part of CAAP, the Pennsylvania State Association that represents the network of 42 Community Action Agencies. They are the statewide voice for local agencies and low-income citizens. CAAP is the primary source of advocacy, education, technical assistance, news, and networking for Community Action in the Commonwealth. The roots of the program stem from a a pivotal moment in August 1964 with President Lyndon B. Johnson's signing of the Economic Opportunity Act. This landmark decision, influenced by advocates like Martin Luther King Jr. and Michael Harrington, marked a fundamental shift, enlisting federal support in the War on Poverty. However, this journey began earlier, with President John Kennedy's initial, though reserved, support.


Community Action Lehigh Valley (CALV) emerged from this national momentum. In December 1965, the Lehigh Valley Community Council, fueled by United Way, embraced the challenge to activate local resources against poverty, leading to CALV's establishment. Today, the agency manages 13 programs stretching over 7 counties and impacting tens of thousands of people on a variety of levels. Their advocacy programs address issues of racial and ethnic justice and also incorporate a mental health component. Eligible clients can receive up to seven free sessions with agency-appointed counsellors.


The Rising Tide Community Loan Fund helps the local economy thrive by offering loan products to startup and established small businesses in our community whose risk factors make it difficult to obtain traditional business funding. Over $1.8 Million in loans have been disbursed to small businesses through the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund. The rising cost of housing and food have led to an increase in hunger issues in the Lehigh Valley.


CALV operates the Second Harvest Food Bank which is the source of supply for many of our local food pantries. The seed Farm in Emmaus is an incubator farm program that teaches people how to start and operate a farm. The housing program is designed to help first-time home owners find affordable housing. The CALV seminar teaches people about home ownership and also helps them obtain financing.


Their Generation Next program began in the Easton Area School District in 2016. It is a college-readiness program encouraging more non-white students to prepare for, and take the SAT exam. Studies revealed that only 3% of non-white students took the SAT whilst over 90% of white students took the exam. This program has now been expanded to several school districts. The SHE program is for young girls and designed to help them develop self-esteem and learn about their possibilities in life.


The overall emphasis for the CALV programs is to enable people to lift themselves out of poverty, and to remain there. Across these seven counties, CALV is fighting for good.


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