This year, the Community Action Network will celebrate 55 years of helping people and changing lives. In Ohio, we witness low- and moderate-income neighbors overcoming their unique obstacles every day as they work hard to walk their own paths to self-sufficiency. Annually, over 700,000 Ohioans reach out for and receive help from Community Action Agencies in the form of emergency assistance, job training, transportation, early childhood and adult education, and so much more. Yet the important work in our state only scratches the surface of what our network accomplishes each year across America.

Last year, I was invited to participate on an advisory committee for the National Community Action Partnership. This committee brought together Community Action experts across the country with the goal to collectively tell our network’s story. The result is the first National Impact Report: Building Opportunities for All, which was released last week.

This new report aims to illustrate the work of over 1000 agencies who serve 99% of all counties nationwide. Each agency is locally-led and locally-driven by community members and partners representing the public, private, and low-income sectors throughout their communities. Together, they engage in a deliberate effort to understand the obstacles facing their neighbors and develop programs to help each other become self-reliant. Because of that local control, each agency looks a little different, though together they make an enormous impact.

This first-of-its-kind report, I believe, is an important step in telling our collective story to partners, elected officials, funders, community members, staff, and others. Every item donated, each hour volunteered, and every program supported by partnerships impacts not only the local community but people across our country.

I encourage all our members to review and share this report with all stakeholders throughout your organizations. Members can also access a toolkit developed by the Partnership which can be adapted specifically for your agency. And, of course, your feedback is always important. Be sure to share your thoughts with OACAA and with the Partnership so that this report can grow into an even stronger tool for our network.

Kathryn Clausen is the communications director at Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies and has over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector—with over a decade of her career in the Community Action Network. In her current role, she manages the association’s communications and public relations efforts, as well as supports the communications efforts of 48 CAAs in Ohio. Kathryn received her Master of Arts from Kent State University where she studied Mass Communication and Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations. She also earned undergraduate degrees in business management, marketing, and photography from Ohio University, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Franklin University where she studied communications.