CAP Services’ Nicole Harrison, Jim Vang and Phong Vang pose during the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) annual meeting Thursday, May 23rd, in Madison. Jim Vang was recognized with WISCAP’s 2019 Exceptional Community Action Staff Member Award for more than 30 years of work on behalf of the Hmong community in central Wisconsin.

Jim Vang, Stevens Point, received the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) 2019 Exceptional Community Action Staff Member Award during the organization’s annual meeting Thursday, May 23rd, in Madison.

WISCAP, the state’s community action trade association, recognized Vang for more than three decades of work on behalf of Portage County’s Hmong community through CAP Services.

“Jim is a unique leader who combines his steady determination with a truly infectious sense of humor,” said Nicole Harrison, CAP’s Chief Program Officer. “The mix of dedication and adaptability he has brought to his work is exceptional and emblematic of Community Action’s promise to transform lives and communities.”

Vang’s family was one of the first to settle in Stevens Point, moving there in 1980.

In 1987, Jim met Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Ken Knutson. They worked to call together a group of community members to discuss issues of Hmong resettlement in the area. That group became the Portage County Hmong Advocacy Group, which would meet monthly for the next 14 years.

Their collaboration also sowed the seeds of Hmong Alliance Church of Stevens Point, which Jim helped to found in 1988. That same year, Mary Cayford at CAP Services began working with Hmong families. The following year, 1989, CAP established the Refugee Advocacy Program with grants from United Way of Portage County and Ministry Corporation. Jim Vang was hired as an interpreter for the program, which he would go on to run through the end of 2014.

Vang worked with hundreds of clients each year, helping them to access services, navigate legal and cultural obstacles, and achieve their goals. Vang helped Hmong refugees gain a foothold in the community as well as bridge the gap between Hmong culture and the broader American culture. He reached over 10,000 people through his community presentations and training sessions.

In 2014, Vang helped CAP transition the program into Hmong UPLIFT, a multi-generational family literacy program that embraces parenting education, adult education, and early childhood education to bridge gaps within families looking to improve their lives. This evolution of program design has allowed the CAP to continue to address community needs in a culturally-competent fashion while keeping up with changes in program design and the funding landscape.

“Jim is amazing,” said Phong Vang, CAP Services’ Hmong UPLIFT Program Coordinator. “He has closed the cultural gap, making Portage County a home for many Hmong families.”