Community Action of Greene County
"Everybody deserves to have dignity. Everybody needs to be treated like somebody that matters." – Florence Ohle, Executive Director, Community Action of Greene County
Community Action of Greene County, incorporated in 1967, is one of over 1,000 Community Action agencies formed nationwide as part of President Johnson’s war on poverty. Its mission is to create opportunities, fight poverty, and change lives.
The Dyson Foundation has supported Community Action's operations for the past 8 years, and as one of the few human service agencies serving Greene County, it is a key part of the region's safety net. Grants to this organization fall within the Health & Safety Net and Strengthening Nonprofits themes.
The organization’s Greene County activities, focused on family and community development, include several programs that focus on a range of issues, including emergency food assistance, housing needs and support, and education and supplies for families facing intervention by Child Protective Services.
“The numbers are staggering,” says Executive Director Florence Ohle, referring to their food assistance program. “We served over 33,000 meals last year to people in need. Before the recession we were providing 30 to 40 households a month with food packages. After, that number went up to 100, and it goes up a little bit every year. As of 2015-16, it went up over 20 percent and now we’re at 170 to 180 households a month.”
One of Community Action’s largest programs provides residential and non-residential services to victims of domestic violence in both Greene County as well as neighboring Columbia County. “We have a domestic violence shelter in each county - the only homeless shelters in either county,” says Ohle. Those include a 15-bed shelter and 4-unit transitional apartment building in Columbia County, and a 10-bed shelter in Greene County, all of which typically operate at capacity. Staff assist clients with obtaining orders of protection, general advocacy, accompaniment to court proceedings, and both group and individual counseling. Community Action offers an after-care program and a call-in hotline, which fielded nearly 1,700 calls in 2017. It has also recently begun domestic violence prevention work in schools.
While the organization offers a lot of services to the community, including weatherization assistance for homes and tax return preparation help, a particularly interesting initiative has been their Pay It Forward Community Thrift Store, which opened in 2012. “The store has done wonders in increasing our recognition in the community. People know us, they really support us through donations, we have the same shoppers who come in all the time, and it supports the agency by covering a lot of our overhead, which is wonderful.” says Ohle.
The store also serves as a Community Work Experience (CWEP) volunteer site. “We use the thrift store to help people develop job skills. We work with them to help them develop these skills – such as how to dress, how to talk, and customer service. We’ve seen some people come in so beaten down and discouraged, and they just thrive and they look forward to coming here. We have a young woman now who is done with her CWEP assignment and she continues to volunteer because she’s just so thankful.”