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Those in Need Must Lead

Margaret Ellison was one of UCAN's founding partners.

A group of mothers on welfare and state welfare caseworkers founded the Parents' Action Council (PAC) in 1969. PAC would eventually become UCAN. These founders were very sensitive to the importance of having PAC's low-income members determine what they needed and how best to address their needs. Low-income members themselves had a profound desire to improve their own lives and the lives of others in similar situations. Initial services, offered through PAC's Confidence Clinic, helped women on welfare navigate middle class culture, work on their GEDs, learn to drive, perform home repairs and sew their own clothes.Many of PAC's earliest participants became PAC's first employees and volunteers. In 1972, realizing that many could not attend programs because they lacked child care, PAC opened a the Sunshine House child care center.

A Huge Leap Forward

Garrett Fritter, Sharon Sinderbrand, Connie Bonham, and Alysanne Powell enjoy storytime at UCAN Head Start

With experience successfully operating a child care center, PAC decided to take on the challenge of operating Douglas County's Head Start program. PAC staff became familiar with the federal grant process and federal programming standards. PAC's philosophy worked particularly well in supporting a Head Start Program. Head Start requires the use of a Policy Council comprised of low-income parents to help guide programming and operations. PAC's philosophy of ensuring that low-income individuals drive programming decisions ensured that the PAC Head Start Policy Council truly guided the Head Start Program.

Onward to Community Action

Community Action LogoFollowing its successful re-launch of the Douglas County Head Start Program, PAC began operating another federal program, the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. With growing expertise in operating federal programs, PAC was ready to become a Community Action Agency. In 1981, PAC became Douglas County's designated Community Action Agency, and soon after changed its name to Umpqua Community Action Network, or UCAN, as it was commonly known.

Growing While Remaining True to Out Beginnings

UCAN Food Shares director, Steve Randolph, and State Highway Division employees Brenda Lash, Bob Van Vickle, and Rick Kobernick unload food into UCAN's food pantry in 1987Umpqua Community Action Network continued adding services in the next few decades, meeting basic needs such as housing and food. In the mid-2000s, UCAN expanded into Josephine County and began work to provide similar programming there. In recognition of its commitment to coordinating services in two counties, UCAN again changed its name, this time to United Community Action Network. UCAN is now one of the region's most comprehensive providers of social, early learning and health services. As UCAN moves forward to address local community challenges, we do so following the spirit of our founders. We take risks. We innovate. We collaborate. And most importantly, we look to our low-income community to help guide our efforts.