West Central Missouri Community Action Agency (West Central) was recently awarded $20,000 from the Louis L. and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Foundation, and is one of 20 projects funded by the foundation, out of 100 applications from across central and southern Missouri.

The Louis and Dorothy Coover Regional Grantmaking Program is a partnership between Community Foundation of the Ozarks and The Commerce Trust Company, based out of Springfield, MO. The $20,000 award will fund initial progress for the neighborhood-based El Dorado Works! Program.

El Dorado Works!, an effort of West Central and its affiliate New Growth (Community Development Corporation), will combine job assessment and readiness programming with family and social supports, such as drop-in child care and community meals. Located in the former Liston School building, it will anchor and attract additional partners, services, and investments. They include youth programming, classes for high school equivalency and college credit, financial counseling and healthy food programs. Planning is underway, for example, with Osage Prairie YMCA for a summer camp childcare program that would co-locate in the renovated Liston School.

Programs will serve all area residents but focus on creating a welcoming and supportive place for families in the Liston Neighborhood to begin finding their way to economic self-sufficiency, said Chris Thompson, President and CEO of West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and New Growth (Community Development Corporation).

The need is great and affects everyone in El Dorado Springs and the larger region. Comparisons of household poverty indicate that 14 percent of Missourians live in poverty; in Cedar County, 19.8 percent; climbing to 33.6 percent in El Dorado Springs and doubling in the Liston neighborhood to 65 percent.

“We are thankful for the El Dorado Springs community’s willingness to share their resources and time in developing this neighborhood revitalization initiative,” Thompson said. “Together we can transform lives by transforming how we work with people and communities in need.”

The initiative’s lead local partner is the El Dorado Youth Center board, which owns and renovated the Liston School and has operated youth programming there. West Central, New Growth, Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission and other community stakeholders began working last fall, together with the board, to build a new approach to community need and opportunity.

Neighborhood surveys and a town hall meeting generated overwhelming agreement and clear direction. Residents said: “We need jobs…education…childcare.”

“The El Dorado Works! Program is a wraparound approach inspired by Springfield Missouri’s Northwest Project,” said Kelly Ast, New Growth’s community initiatives coordinator. “It combines social supports, such as child care and community meals, with technical supports, such as classes and other training. This is how we can help ensure people make real and sustainable progress toward income, health, and personal goals,” she said.

For ongoing information about the El Dorado Works! Project, please contact coordinator Kelly Ast at 660-476-2185.

West Central Missouri Community Action Agency is dedicated to empowering people to make a positive change by coordinating and administering resources.  West Central’s service region includes the counties of Cedar, Vernon, Hickory, St. Clair, Bates, Henry, Benton, Morgan, and Cass.  West Central Missouri Community Action Agency strives to be the voice in our communities and our governments for those most in need.

Assistance units within the organization include the following: Community Services, Employment and Training, Energy Conservation, Health Services, Housing, and Early Childhood Education (Head Start).

New Growth’s mission is to build local commerce and community by connecting West Central Missouri’s people and places to regional market opportunities that can stimulate entrepreneurship and investment.

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