Lyn-CAG’s Full History.
The Lynchburg Community Action Group, Inc. (Lyn-CAG) was chartered as a 501(c)3 organization in December of 1965.
Introduced in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” initiative, Lyn-CAG continues to work with those economically disadvantaged members of our society who are pushed to the margins. The Board of Directors is mandated to be tripartite with representation coming from the public sector (appointed by City Council), low income representatives and citizens from the private sector. From the beginning of its existence the Board has always enjoyed a diverse roster of Board volunteers. This effort was led by many familiar names in our community’s social activist history including: Dr. John Devine, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Dr. Walter Johnson, M.W. Thornhill, Jr., Carl Hutcherson Sr., Hortense Braswell, Evelyn Morris, Mary Payne, Dr. John T. Hundley, Dr. Clarissa Wimbush, Pauline Weeden (Maloney), Gussie Gordon, Virginia Hughes, L. Garnell Stamps and many others.
The initial leadership of Lyn-CAG was guided by Monsignor Harold Nott, a local Catholic priest as the Chairman of the Board and Mr. John Devine as the first Executive Director. After two years, Mr. Silas Switzer assumed the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors and for the next thirty-one years, the Rev. Haywood Robinson Jr. served as Executive Director of the agency. Under Rev. Robinson’s leadership, Lyn-CAG evolved into a major force whose goal was to bridge the gap between barriers that allowed its clients to reach their desired goals. Since 1998, Dr. James H. Mundy has served as President/CEO of the organization. His mission has been to expand the programs and services offered by the agency as well as to increase the number of community partners that work tirelessly to support the agency in its quest to offer some relief to those that come to us for assistance.
The program was perceived as being controversial at its inception because the very citizens it proposed to serve were allowed to participate in the program’s design and implementation. Newspaper articles from the 1966 archives of the Lynchburg News and Advance have recorded the concerns expressed by then City Leaders regarding the intent of the program. There was a concern that the program would not equally serve both the Black and White populations if it was presented by “Negro representatives.” In addition to the possibility of race mixing, another concern expressed was that poverty programs across the country had been mismanaged, corrupted and were discriminating. Lynchburg’s program managers dispelled the mismanagement fears expressed by those in opposition of their efforts. In 1966, the agency was awarded $130,000 for program implementation. Eight years after its impetus, Lyn-CAG had successfully placed over 1,200 low income adults in jobs and provided training to an additional 2,800 people. Lyn-CAG operated Central Virginia’s first Meals on Wheels Program that exists today as a stand-alone initiative and in its infancy served almost 22,000 meals to low income shut-in elderly citizens during its first two years of operation. Lyn-CAG provided a manpower program and administered the City’s first teen summer employment program that found employment for over 1,100 disadvantaged youth.
Our senior citizens were served through programs offered in multi-purpose centers which specialized in recreational, enrichment and educational activities. The City’s current neighborhood centers and Councils (i. e. Tinbridge Hill, Daniels Hill, College Hill, White Rock Hill, Diamond Hill and Dearington) came into existence via the Community Action Group‘s efforts.
Through Lyn-CAG’s hand up efforts, over $4.6 million dollars (grants) have been brought into the community annually which directly benefited citizens caught in the cycle of poverty. Our programs and services have always promoted self-sufficiency not dependency. For the past fifty years, Lyn-CAG has served the Region in programmatic areas that serve children and youth, the working poor, support for those in crisis and administered programs that strengthen families and the whole community. While it seems that our society’s efforts to bring the ravages of poverty under control in this day of resource cuts and the elimination of social program funding, Lyn-CAG still stands firm in its commitment to attack the issue of poverty in our Region. Franklin Roosevelt said it best, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” The agency strives to provide just the right mix of encouragement along with incentives. We promote a collaborative effort with the support of others including faith- based organizations, city and county government, human and social service agencies, financial and educational institutions, and foundations and corporations throughout the Region and beyond in order that our clients utilize all of the resources afforded them. We pride ourselves in being a “one-stop” operation, meeting individuals at their point of need. Today the agency administers over 25 programs and services with an annual budget of $6,025,029.
Lyn-CAG seeks to address the root causes of poverty. The process is often slow and very tedious because of the barriers the poor must overcome, but we are committed to fight the good fight! As we look forward to our next fifty years, we solicit your prayers and your support!