The first two years of Western Economic Development Organization's existence was spent organizing and assisting general economic development projects in WNC. However, in early 1973 our Board of Directors felt that Western Economic Development Organization could more effectively serve the entire area of WNC if we concentrated promotion, and marketing of traditional mountain handicrafts could serve the greatest number of low income people most effectively. We worked in crafts training and marketing for about 3 ½ years before turning all marketing functions over to the Western North Carolina Crafts Federation (WNCCF) which Western Economic Development Organization help organize. In 1978, Marketing Association for Rehabilitation Centers (MARC); an organization that consists of rehabilitation centers in the surrounding counties of Western North Carolina was created, which Western Economic Development Organization was involved in assisting this organization.
Western Economic Development Organization has been involved in various general economic development projects that have been profitable to the low income in the area. Examples: raising red worms; picking up night crawlers for immediate sale; small cut and sew operations; Christmas tree production; community gardens; and sub contract work for vocational rehabilitation centers.
Western Economic Development Organization has a tripartite board composed of 15 board members, in which 1/3 public officials or their representative; 1/3 representative of the low income; and 1/3 private groups make up the composition.
Current work program consists of providing financial support, coordination and marketing assistance to another non-profit (First Step Farm) for their marketing outreach and operations. First Step Farm chartered as a private non-profit corporation in 1976, is a proven approach to the treatment and rehabilitation of chemically dependent adults. First Step Farm serves all one hundred counties in North Carolina and operates a fully functional productive farm for men and women on two separate sites in Buncombe county. A work therapy program is provided to all residents that includes working in greenhouses, kitchens, garages, fields, moving yards and employment in the Fresh Market/Retail Store, at which residents receive wages for their work.
The current work program is the educational part: To provide educational assistance for low income Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) eligibility low income individuals receive a General Educational Development (GED) certificate or a vocational certificate or license.
Community Action was the cornerstone of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, embodying the fundamental idea that the poor know best what their problems are and how to best allocate resources to correct them.
Originally, CAA's were given "local incentive" funds to support locally designed and administered programs to combat poverty in their communities. The Economic Opportunity Act, and with it the Community Services Administration (CSA), expired on September 30th, 1981.
Congress passed certain amendments to the Act. The 1981 amendments modified the definition of 'eligible entity' to include any Limited Purpose Agency (LPA) designated under the Economic Act of 1964 for 1981 which served the general purpose of a Community Action Agency.
Western Economic Development Organization has been providing service for more than 44 years and continuously strive to identify the needs of the community and to develop a work plan to meet those needs.