United Community Action Program, Inc. (UCAP) 1969-2019 is celebrating its 50th Year of Incorporation this year. Community Action Programs were established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson in a controversial and courageous move to take on the “War on Poverty” across America. Having seen unthinkable conditions across rural and other low income areas, President Johnson commissioned Sargent Shriver, formerly of the Peace Corps, to develop a department dedicated to eliminating poverty and the causes of poverty to improve the human condition with opportunities for individuals to build self-sufficiency in America.
And with that move, United Community Action began soon after. Initially named the Pawnee/Osage Community Action, with its growth and expansion to other counties, in 1969 it was renamed and incorporated as United Community Action Program, Inc. At that time the UCAP Central Office was headquartered in Pawnee, OK at the Pawnee Nation Agency Building, then later at the current Pawnee Senior Citizen Building on 5th Street, and then near the now Pawnee City Hall Building. Since 1994 UCAP’s Central Office has been in its current location at 501 6th Street, Pawnee, OK, on the Pawnee, OK Courthouse square in the former Jerry James Photography Studio. This history of moving facilities of the main office is similar for the buildings that have housed the Head Start programs over the years in all the various locations. One goal that Executive Director Johnny Bryant always held to and strove for was to provide good facilities for the programs and employees. The earliest programs offered by UCAP were the Head Start Programs. Soon the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program began, and Job Training and Youth Programs were added, along with Housing, Weatherization, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Transportation. The growth from 20 employees total in the agency, operating the first Head Start Program, to its current total staff of 412 shows the growth and impact United Community Action has had on the communities and counties it has served over the 50 years.
Today, most of the programs operated by UCAP overlap multiple counties. The Child and Adult Care Food Program expands the furthest into 16 Oklahoma Counties. The Head Start and Early Head Start Programs teach and provide services to 1200 children in the counties of Creek, Kay, Logan, Noble, Okmulgee, Osage, Pawnee, Payne and west Tulsa. Cimarron Public Transit reaches over 1.2 million passenger miles yearly with 125,008 trips. Fifty-three percent of those trips are transporting senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children has jurisdictions in Pawnee and Osage District and Tribal Nation Courts. The Housing Program provides affordable housing in 11 cities, and the Community Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program recently added Behavioral Health Wellness certification to its support. Outreach Services provided by UCAP include Volunteer Income Tax Preparation, Emergency Assistance, and also help through partnerships with the Pawnee County Salvation Army, Pawnee County Free Health Clinic, Associated Charities of Perry, OK, and Associated Charities located in Blackwell, OK.
United Community Action Program, Inc. is governed by a 12 member tripartite board who live in the various counties of its operating areas. The Executive Director during almost the entirety of UCAP’s 50 years is Johnny Bryant. He became Executive Director during 1972-1973 and worked at the agency in other capacities from its beginning. As Executive Director, Johnny Bryant began working towards goals for the agency. Along with finding building spaces that could accommodate the continual growth, he pursued retirement options and good health insurance for all employees, along with job security. With these tangible benefits were his guiding principles of straight talk, openness, and honesty.
United Community Action Program is grateful for the opportunity it’s had to serve citizens of the counties of Oklahoma. When giving to others, most find that there is an equal return, and United Community Action Program, Inc. celebrates its 50 years feeling the benefit of being able to help build and support self-sufficiency from its beginning in the 1960s, now reaching forward into the next 50 years.