Community Action Agency Picked

Community Action Agency Picked

Social services department to allocate state funds.

The Loudoun Human Services Network has recommended that the Department of Social Services serve as the county's community action agency, empowering it to pass out state money to local non-profits.

The recommendation comes eight months after Good Shepherd Alliance failed in its bid to be named the community action agency. Questions had been raised by both supervisors and representatives from other non-profits about whether the public process was being respected.

Community action agencies are public/private partnerships intended to increase communication between local non-profits as well as dole out state funds. While they have been in existence since 1964, Loudoun has never named one.

In response to a request by supervisors, Loudoun Human Services Network, which is comprised of 31 private non-profit and public agencies, formed a committee of 17 representatives from local non-profits. The members engaged in lengthy debates about how to choose the proper community action agency, a time investment recognized by Supervisor Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

"You guys had one heck of a debate, and I have a whole thick yellow email file to prove it," Tulloch said.

DESPITE THE DEBATE, the committee was unanimous in its decision to name the Department of Social Services as the community action agency. Of the 26 localities in Virginia that use community action agencies, only two are government-run. Both Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria use their departments of social services.

But, eventually, Good Shepherd Alliance will probably get the designation anyway.

After a two- to five-year period as an "incubator," the Department of Social Services will pass the community action agency role onto a private non-profit.

"Our intent is that Good Shepherd Alliance is our first choice," said Dr. Judy Hanley, immediate past chair of Loudoun Human Services Network.

For John Brothers, Good Shepherd Alliance's executive director, the committee experience has helped draw together local nonprofits, whose goals are all along the same vein anyway.

"All along, Good Shepherd's goal is to try to bring more money for the homeless," he said.