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Central Wisconsin’s CAP Services Marks 50 Years Of Fighting Poverty

Organization Started In 1966

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CAP Services, a Stevens Point-based community action agency, is marking 50 years of fighting poverty in central Wisconsin in a war that has forced the group to change its approach with changing times.

Since CAP Services was born in 1966 during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” effort, it has gone from helping individuals to trying to change the economic conditions in the six counties it serves.

Mary Patoka, CAP’s executive director, said the change in tactics reflects attempts to influence the overarching questions that lead to poverty.

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“Prior, it was focused on the individual, self-sufficiency, and we still think that’s very important. But, we can’t do that in a vacuum. People can’t get a decent paying job if there aren’t new businesses getting started. If they can’t afford rents, they need somebody to create that affordable housing,” he said.

CAP’s housing projects and low-interest business loans are being praised by national anti-poverty activist Sister Simone Campbell.

“We, the people need to be, as we say in the faith circles, our brothers and sisters keepers,” she said. “I was so stunned to hear about the housing programs that CAP Services has done because one of the biggest challenges for low-income people is finding affordable housing. And the innovative work that’s being done here raised a lot of joy for me, because it said we, the people are engaged in solving some of these problems.”

Campbell was the keynote speaker at CAP’s 50th anniversary celebration.

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