In East Texas two leaders came together to explore a new program; the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act. They were Mr. Jerry Johnson and Mr. C.L. Simon. George Perry Campbell & Dr Ralph W. Steen were particularly interested and encouraged a meeting at the Nacogdoches County Courthouse for community leaders. It was agreed to apply for this new program. In 1965 Community Action Nacogdoches, Inc. was born with a $100,000 emergency needs grant. Jerry Johnson was our first board chair and C.L. Simon was our first vice chair. The very first Executive Director was Mr. Hardy Hariston. The city donated office space, SFASU donated used office furniture and equipment.
The act of 1964 had a provision to create a program to benefit young children. Nationally a panel of child development experts gathered to draw up a program to help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. This became the blue print for Project Head Start with the first eight week pilot project occurring in 1965. In 1967 funding for programs first became available. In late 1967 it was decided by the board to pursue the program for young children called Head Start. In 1968 first funding was secured. The first classrooms were established at the Presbyterian Church in Nacogdoches. Ms. Zelma Harris was our first Head Start Director.
The weatherization program (in the very earliest stages) was quickly added. The focus was not to keep homes cool, but warm in the winter. At that time air conditioning was considered more of a luxury! Services quickly expanded to include Angelina County, Trinity and Houston Counties. Polk County and San Jacinto were soon included.
The agency as a whole has grown and evolved. In 1998 Rusk, Cherokee, Gregg, Smith and Wood counties were added to the energy assistance and weatherization programs. Today we are Greater East Texas Community Action Program. We provide a number of services throughout East Texas. From Head Start in 5 counties to Energy Assistance, Emergency Assistance in 11 counties, Weatherization in 10 counties and a myriad of other special projects including school supply drives, fan & air conditioner drives. We proudly partner with a number of churches and organizations throughout east Texas to make a difference in our communities.