This week CTLN Opinion+ had the opportunity to speak with Deb Polun, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action (CAFCA). CAFCA is the Connecticut-based association of the state’s nine Community Action Agencies (CAAs) which aim to combat poverty. The association’s mission is “to support, strengthen, and promote the work of the Community Action Agencies statewide to advance economic, racial, and social justice.”
Polun says they implement this by remaining deeply rooted in their communities and ensuring that all cultures are represented. She says that “because they’re so rooted in their communities, they hire staff from their communities so the programs are always provided in culturally appropriate ways, in languages of the people who are in their neighborhoods.”
The CAAs offer a wide variety of programs and services to low-income people around the state including Meals on Wheels, childcare, financial literacy programs, job training, and free income tax assistance. Polun mentioned that the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program has received additional funding for energy assistance this year and welcomes eligible people to apply, as access to heat is essential especially during the cold winter months.
The pandemic has forced flexibility upon some programs and staff members. For example, some Head Start classes have had to temporarily shut down due to Covid outbreaks, while in other cases congregate meals for senior centers have been canceled, and rather than allow the seniors to go hungry, staff scrambled to find alternative methods of providing those they serve with nutritious meals. Polun says this dedication that the CAAs and their staff possess is the essence of what CAFCA stands for.
“It makes me really proud to do the work in a way that honors the people across our state and to be able to play even just a small role in that makes me really proud of the work that we do here at CAFCA.”
Resources mentioned in this episode:
CAAs in Connecticut: https://www.cafca.org/agencies/
Connecticut Energy Assistance Program: https://portal.ct.gov/DSS/Economic-Security/Winter-Heating-Assistance/Energy-Assistance—Winter-Heating/Apply