A Fresno community action and anti-poverty agency that does everything from providing education to serving hot meals and helping people find jobs is celebrating 50 years of service this year.
The Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission was founded in 1965. It was one of nearly 900 agencies created nationwide when Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act a year earlier to give people an equal opportunity to education, employment, health and living conditions.
Since then, the Fresno agency has grown into one of the largest poverty-fighting organizations in the country, the commission said. It has served 25 million meals over the last five decades and last year, helped more than 120,000 people.
“We’re proud of what we did 50 years ago and we’re proud today that we’re feeding farmworkers in a midst of a drought and everything in between,” said Brian Angus, the commission’s chief executive officer.
The Fresno commission is known for administering the Head Start program, distributing vouchers for the Women, Infants and Children food program and for providing work training programs and job placement.
But the group also helps human trafficking victims, high school students who don’t fit in the traditional school system, and people with drug convictions turn their life around.
The milestone, however, isn’t just a celebration of the past.
“Although we’ve had a long history of invigorating programs, we feel like this is our celebration of what we plan to do for the next 50 years,” Angus said.
The agency will start a Head Start program in the new First 5 Fresno County Lighthouse building in downtown Fresno. It will open a credit union this year and begin a major solar project, Angus said.
The commission will celebrate its past and future with a yearlong series of public workshops, lectures and activities around poverty. The first will be held Jan. 26 with speaker David Bradley, of the National Community Action Foundation. He will speak about the “History of the War on Poverty.”