The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP), the state community action agency trade association, held its annual meeting May 8 and 9 in Madison. The event recognized the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and WISCAP’s 40th anniversary. Former CAP Services President and CEO Karl Pnazek was among those recognized during the event.
Pnazek was recognized as part of the “40 Friends for 40 Years” session. Also included in this group was State Senator Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, who has been instrumental in a number of pieces of legislation that help people move toward self-sufficiency. Others recognized came from the community action network, government and the community at large.
“The history of community action in Wisconsin is a long and storied one, though it hasn’t ever been and easy one,” said Bob Jones, WISCAP executive director. “The dedication of people like Karl (Pnazek) and Julie (Lassa) is important to our work and continues to be important to the people and communities of this state.”
WISCAP also recognized former Congressman David Obey with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his many years of advocacy on behalf of the “average Joe” in this country. Mary Patoka, CAP Services’ current President and CEO, introduced the congressman, highlighting his many accomplishments holding government accountable to its citizens, and his own accountability to his constituents characterized by his deep commitment to social and economic justice.
“The congressman’s comments about the economic elite and the decreasing number of Americans who feel they share in the responsibility to meet the needs of those with fewer resources, really struck a chord with me,” said Patoka. “We face some substantial challenges as we move forward in our mission to permanently increase the ability of low-income individuals to become economically and emotionally self-sufficient.”
In addition to the history of the community action movement in Wisconsin, sessions covered current accomplishments and future challenges of fighting poverty in Wisconsin. Guests included Laura Dresser, Associate Director with the Center on Wisconsin Strategies; Tom Hefty, CEO (Retired)-Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin; Don Mathis, Executive Director of the National Community Action Partnership; Tim Smeeding, Executive Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW-Madison; and David Bradley, Executive Director of the National Community Action Foundation. Several individuals who played key roles in the start of community action agencies also spoke.