Friday, February 21, 2014

Are You A Community Hero?

My favorite superhero character has always been Captain America. I think it's partly because he was in the military (which I've always loved) and partly because his name is Steve, like me. But more than that, Captain America is passionate about his cause. He is always willing to give up his life for his country, freedom, and the safety of other people.

It’s fun that CANI's United Way workplace campaign this year is incorporating the theme of superheroes, and it makes me think of Captain America and his cause. At CANI, we have a cause as well - to eliminate poverty.  We are soldiers just like Captain America, in the fight against poverty.

The United Way is an important ally in this fight against poverty. They support our programs in highly significant ways and they are the largest private funder that we have.

We are partners with the United Way in many different community initiatives, including the Case Coordination System, 211, and the Education Network, to name just a few. Most importantly, their goals are basically the same as our goals. The support they provide to the community - via funding to local agencies, volunteer mobilization, and advocacy - in the end all these things help the very same people that we are working to help as well.

I cannot overstate how much I believe in the work of United Way and what they are doing in our communities. As we begin our workplace campaign here, I hope that you might find it in your heart to donate to the campaign. Many workplaces, like CANI, make it really easy through payroll deduction. I know that I don’t notice the donation that I make each year - as a little bit comes out each paycheck - yet I know that what I give is providing resources that accomplish great results.

Please consider a gift to United Way today. You can even designate gifts to your favorite organization or your favorite initiatives. Any amount that you can provide is a great help to our community and the people who live here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Sky's The Limit for Community Economic Development

This month we have a guest post from Sherry Early-Aden, CANI's Vice President of Operations

CCED offers a business planning course
called Foundations.
In 2010, CANI created a Community Economic Development (CED) department. This department was established to create positive economic opportunities and improve social conditions for disadvantaged individuals living in CANI’s service area.  CANI acts as an agent of change by providing Small Business Loans, financial education, building Low Income Housing Developments, and through empowering neighborhoods and communities to develop and create Quality of Life Plans.

In 2012, the CED department became CANI’s Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED). The Center is a supporting agency of CANI and operates to expand its mission.  Since its inception, The Center staff has worked hard to increase awareness of its programs and secure funding for the activities mentioned above.

In 2013, the Center had several signifigant accomplishments. We received Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) certification, and Small Business Administration (SBA) Intermediate Micro Lender status. Each of these will allow greater access to funding to further our efforts in Community Economic Development.

So, what will we do in 2014? The Center is excited about all the new opportunities awaiting us this year. Our goals include: pursuing a new housing development project, providing $250,000 in small business loans, launching a housing program in Waterloo, Indiana, and from there the sky is the limit.

Watch for CANI in a neighborhood near you!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What are the needs in our community?

Last month, CANI released our annual Community Needs Assessment. This is a critical study for us because it is truly the basis of what we do here at CANI. Our board and staff utilize the assessment to build plans for the future and design our programs in a way that best meet the needs of our community. It is an important read for anyone who is working to help people in Northeast Indiana.

The assessment attempts to look at a number of different areas that impact poverty. While we do not have the resources to be fully comprehensive, it is an excellent tool that helps us see the issues families and communities face.

Our findings this year are consistent with what we’ve been seeing over the last several years. The majority of low-income families are working, but are not earning enough money in their jobs to be economically self-sufficient. These families generally have lower education levels, which is a primary indicator of how much income families have. In fact, if someone has just a high school diploma or GED, it is simply not enough education to earn a self-sufficient wage.
Housing continues to be a critical issue for low-income families as well. While over two-thirds of the entire population owns their own home, two-thirds of low-income families do not. Five percent of those served by CANI have been homeless in the last twelve months. The majority of low-income families pay over 30% of their income on housing, which robs them of the ability to meet their other needs.
Single-parenthood continues to be a major indicator of poverty. This not only deprives a family of the potential for two incomes, but it also creates issues with transportation, child care, and other barriers to self-sufficiency. In our communities, reliable transportation is simply critical to get to a job. If a family does not have child care, they cannot be employed. That is why transportation and child care are two areas that need to be addressed if we are going to help families become self-sufficient.
What we have seen over the last five years is a dramatic increase in unemployment and poverty rates. The damage that our economy has suffered has been felt by our most vulnerable citizens. The CANI Community Needs Assessment illustrates the poverty issues that we face in Northeast Indiana. It is an excellent resource as we continue our work, but we hope it will also be informative for the entire community. I invite you to use it and share it with others. The full study can be found on our web site and at the link here: