The History of Community Action and WICAP


The basic concept of Community Action, as begun by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, was to assist the poor. This was the premise upon which Western Idaho Community Action Program (WICAP) was established in 1965 and still operates. It was comprised of three counties in the beginning – Gem, Valley, and Boise, with the main office in Emmett.

Community Action Programs (CAPs) were created throughout the United States for the purpose of alleviating poverty through work at the local level. CAP’s are not federal programs, but utilize federal monies to implement their projects. Each one of the funding sources has their own contract and set of guidelines, which must be followed.


In 1968, Adams, Washington, and Payette, counties were added and the administration office moved to Payette.


In 1970, Malheur County in Oregon wanted to be part of our organization and was granted their request.


In 1981 Canyon County was added and Malheur County, Oregon was dropped. At the same time, the Economic Opportunity Office in Washington, D.C. had cuts from the federal government and WICAP’s funding was reduced by 50%.

The WICAP Head Start program was first established in 1967 to serve Gem County and located in Emmett. There are now 12 locations which serve 558 children from three to five years of age and Early Head Start which serves 114 pregnant mothers and children zero to three years. These locations are spread over the current seven counties served by the organization and one in Owyhee County located in Marsing. Temporary Emergency Food Assistance program was started in 1980 with deliveries of semi-truck loads of cheese. They were hand loaded in Payette at the old church on Main Street. The income guidelines were 130% of poverty until 2000 when it went up to 133%. The program was a mass distribution every month, with two or three items to be given out.


In approximately 1991 the federal government wanted to be able to include soup kitchens in the program so the amount of items available was diminished. WICAP was mandated to make food available to outside soup kitchens and food banks in our seven county areas. This shortened the amount of food available for mass distributions so we changed from monthly distributions to quarterly.

It is also important to realize that CAP’s in general and WICAP specifically, are not welfare programs. Our program is designed to aid people in leaving public assistance rolls and becoming self-sufficient and self-confident.


In 2002, the National Community Action Agencies focus has changed and there is more emphasis on being more visible in the community. The name has changed nationally to “Community Action Partnership – Changing People, Changing Lives.” The purpose of the agency is to help people change their lives. WICAP has also adopted the new theory and has changed our name to “Western Idaho Community Action Partnership, Inc.”

CAPs have the fundamental responsibility to encourage, assist, and strengthen the ability of low-income persons in clarifying problems they face and helping them to locate solutions to those problems in order to better their existence. WICAP’s flexibility allows us to focus our attention on new problems or changing problems as time goes by. All goals of any program, even the for-profit enterprises, will have final benefit for the low-income.

2012 - Current

In 2012 WICAP has helped in assisting individuals and families with employment, housing, education and more. There were 35,874 individuals given Energy Assistance and over 73,000 individuals given assistance in nutrition through our Nutrition Assistance Program. Overall over 53,000 people were found in need and given emergency assistance to get them stay afloat.