Our History. Our Mission. Our Legacy.
Delaware Opportunities Inc. was established in 1965 under provisions of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, as a Community Action Agency. Delaware Opportunities is a not-for-profit, private corporation. Although the agency contracts with Delaware County and other local municipalities, the agency is not a part of local government. It is governed by a Board of Directors, and has wide powers, designed to improve living conditions in Delaware County. The mission of the agency is to help people achieve self sufficiency and attain a better quality of life.
As a community action agency, the Board of Directors was established, and remains today, as a tri-partite board. One third of the board must be elected officials, one third must represent the community, and one third is democratically elected by low income persons over the age of 18 and residents of Delaware County. The board was charged with the responsibility of identifying problems and opportunities faced by residents of Delaware County and to plan and implement programs which address problems and give lower income families and individuals access to the opportunities. Accordingly, the board obtained preliminary grant funding of $3,000 and hired a part-time Executive Director.
The process of planning and implementing programs began almost immediately. In the first year, the agency sponsored a summer Head Start program, and initiated outreach programs and neighborhood centers, both efforts funded through the federal Office of Economic Opportunity. The agency sought additional sources of funds, and initiated the Senior Dining Program in 1974. Several programs were added over the next 15 years:
- 1976 - The Weatherization program was added.
- 1978 - The agency began operating WIC and a small rental assistance program limited to the Village of Walton.
- 1980 - The agency began housing rehabilitation, utilizing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Block Grant Program. About the same time, a program to assist people with heating costs, which later evolved to HEAP, was initiated.
- 1981 - A food bank was initiated to provide food to those without food or money.
- 1983 - A small day care development and assistance program was initiated to enroll family day care providers. That same year, the agency began the domestic violence prevention and services program.
- 1985 - A rape crisis and sexual assault program was added.
- 1986 - The agency began a crime victims program. Also in 1986, the agency was designated as a Rural Preservation Program by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal.
- 1989 - The agency began to provide respite care for families with a developmentally disabled member.
- 1990 - The agency assumed responsibility for the Parent Aide, and the Big Buddy Programs. About the same time, transportation services were significantly expanded to take people to and from medical appointments.
In the 1990s, the agency added a work experience job crew for people on public assistance, and provided job development and job coaching staff to help people find and retain jobs. Services were provided to pregnant and parenting teens to help them finish school, go on to secondary education, and/or find appropriate employment. A nutrition advocate was added to the staff to assure that eligible households obtained food stamps and accessed other federal feeding programs. The agency focus changed from information and referral to intensive work with families to establish goals, overcome obstacles, and achieve the goals on a family and individual member basis. Even Start was added to provide literacy skills to families without a high school graduate and with a child 0 to 8 years of age. Services coordination functions were added so that developmentally disabled people could access needed services. The agency received designation as a Housing Counseling agency by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and households were assisted in becoming first time home buyers. In 1999, the agency assumed operation of the Department of Social Services Agency Owned Foster Homes and Independent Living Skills program, providing expanded services to particularly needy foster children.
Initially, the agency was funded almost exclusively through the federal government. Today, funds come from private donations, United Way, contracts with local governments and government agencies, foundations, and federal and state sources.
During the early years, the agency served approximately six hundred persons during a year. By 1990, over 7,000 persons were served, in 2000 the agency served nearly 11,500 persons and by 2005, the agency was serving more than 13,000 persons each year. By the end of 2005, the agency had an annual budget of more than 11.5 million and 270 paid staff and over 400 volunteers. Initially, programs were monitored based on units of service provided. Today, the achievements are based on results achieved..