The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has named United Community Action Partnership (UCAP) one of its 2020 Circle of Excellence honorees. UCAP works to eliminate poverty and support families in southwest Minnesota and was recognized for its partnership with DHS and exemplary work of providing food, shelter and other assistance to Minnesotans in need.
UCAP quickly responded to COVID-19 by offering its income tax assistance virtually and using its community transit service to deliver food to seniors and others facing barriers to leaving their homes. It also stepped up to meet the need for child care by reopening some of its Head Start sites in June. For kids and families facing housing instability, UCAP was there, distributing more than $4 million in COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program funds to help prevent eviction and homelessness and maintain housing stability for renters and homeowners.
Technology allowed UCAP, which under normal circumstances works in a nine-county service area, to not only increase their impact, but also to serve as a best practice model for other human service providers across our state. Both the state of Minnesota and the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition looked to UCAP as a leader and leveraged their insights to help other human service organizations pivot their tax and financial assistance programming.
Nancy Fasching, Southwest Initiative Foundation’s Vice President of Community Impact, is currently serving as the Board President of UCAP, which primarily serves the counties of Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lincoln, Lyon, Meeker, McLeod, Redwood and Renville.
“We know the pandemic has disproportionally affected people earning low incomes and families who were already struggling to make ends meet. I am incredibly proud of the work our UCAP staff have done to help people who need a hand up right now. UCAP’s work aligns directly to Southwest Initiative Foundation’s Grow Our Own efforts to ensure all our kids and their families have the opportunities they need to succeed,” Nancy said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced how crucial strong, reliable institutions and agencies are to a community’s resilience. They mitigate some of the most serious health, economic and social consequences of a crisis. The Community Action Network is embedded in 99 percent of America’s counties and has long been a support system for the country, providing access to housing, food and transportation, as well as human development services including Head Start and job training.
In addition to UCAP, our southwest Minnesota region is served by Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC) in the counties of Nobles, Rock, Murray, and Pipestone; and Prairie Five Community Action in Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties. The Lower Sioux Indian Community and Upper Sioux Community work alongside community action agencies provide similar supports in their tribal communities.
Helping People Get There
Studies have identified lack of transportation as one of the greatest barriers to the job success. Especially in rural areas, people without transportation have a hard time getting to jobs that will help support their families and give our kids the opportunity to reach their full potential. United Community Action (UCAP) matches donated vehicles to eligible families through “Helping People Get There” vehicle donation program. In the past year, 86 percent of individuals who received a donated vehicle from UCAP have moved off public cash assistance.
This is just one of dozens of innovative programs and services UCAP offers to address meeting basic needs, education, employment training, transportation services, housing counseling, affordable housing solutions, emergency services, transportation, community economic development projects, after-school programs, weatherization, energy efficiency, asset-building, financial literacy, child development, and services and opportunities for returning military veterans, home-bound seniors and people with disabilities.
We’re proud to be a partner with this organization in moving toward our vision of a southwest Minnesota where all people thrive.Learn more about UCAP