Community Action marks 50 years of serving Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 October 2015 at 12:00 am

‘It’s a great organization with great people doing great things for our community.’ – Grace Denniston, chairwoman of Community Action board

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – Ed Fancher, executive director for Community Action of Orleans & Genesee,welcomes about 100 people during a celebration of the agency’s 50th anniversary on Thursday at Hickory Ridge Country Club.

Fancher noted the agency has grown to several sites in the two counties, and continues to grow and expand services for the community.

He started with Community Action in 1987 as the fiscal director. He was 22 at the time. Community Action had a $750,000 annual budget in 1987.

Now it has a budget of $5.5 million and 130 employees, who provide emergency services, a food pantry, Head Start early childhood education, weatherization, transportation, child care resource and referral, Alternative Choices for Teens (to promote positive choices and less risky behavior), disability program navigation, and a community center that serves lunches in Holley.

Community Action also runs the Main Street Store in Albion, providing job readiness skills. That store moved into the former American Legion Post in Albion last year, after renovating the site.

Grace Denniston, the retired Office for the Aging director in Orleans County, is now the Community Action board of directors chairwoman. She joins Fancher at the podium.

She had the Community Action employees stand and be recognized. They work on the “front lines” in providing important services to needy families in the community, Denniston said.

She also said Community Action works closely with many other agencies to provide services in the two counties.

“It’s a great organization with great people doing great things for our community,” Denniston said.

Community Action organizations were started with the “War on Poverty” initiative by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The former Orleans County Board of Supervisors did a needs assessment of the county in June 1965 to see if a Community Action would be helpful.

Three months later the organization was incorporated. Fancher marvels at how quickly the county leaders moved to establish Community Action 50 years ago.

This photo shows the former Guido’s Super Market on East State Street in Albion, which has been home to Community Action for many years. The photo was part of a historical display during Thursday’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson reads a proclamation from the County Legislature in honor of Community Action’s 50 years.

The Legislature praised the agency for a half century of service and “acknowledges their many achievements by providing priceless resources to our Orleans County community.”

Eileen Kirkpatrick, DSS commissioner in Genesee County, reads a proclamation from Genesee County in honor of Community Action.

Like Lynne Johnson, Kirkpatrick has also served on the Community Action board of directors.

The agency collaborates with Department of Social Services in both counties, the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, Red Cross and other agencies.

A group of about 100 people attended the celebration at Hickory Ridge. They are listening to a proclamation from the State Legislature for Community Action. Eileen Banker, representing State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and State Sen. Robert Ortt, and Jay Grasso, representing State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, present the proclamation to Ed Fancher.

The Batavia Swing Band entertained after the official speeches and dinner. Dan Gross plays the drums for the group.