Our Programs


The stage of human life from birth to age five is a critical time in which cognitive abilities and social and emotional skills are rapidly developing, and when positive interventions are most effective in creating a foundation for future growth. As a society, our economic, social, and cultural well-being demands that all children are provided with the resources to become educated, skilled and humane adults.

Community Action Council offers several high-quality early childhood education programming for children ages birth through five and their families, including pregnant women. Serving hundreds of children throughout Central Kentucky every year, all of these programs address the developmental, social, emotional, health, and family needs of children from low-income backgrounds to give them the strongest possible foundation for success later in life.

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A child cannot be served in isolation from his or her family. All of the Council’s Prep Academies actively collaborate with all members of the family, recognizing the vital role the family plays as a child’s first teacher, caregiver and advocate.

Furthermore, the Council takes a “whole-family” approach to child development. This means that beyond encouraging parental involvement in their children’s education and care, the Council also seeks to support parents and other members of the family in increasing their own health, safety, and financial security, and pursuing their individual career and life goals. This focus on strengthening the family along with the child is critical for breaking the generational cycle of poverty.

Head Start

Head Start provides comprehensive child development services to children 3-5 years of age and their families. All children enrolled in Head Start are given the benefit of a stimulating physical learning environment and high-quality, individualized instruction designed to prepare them for kindergarten. The curriculum allows children to improve their social skills, increase their physical abilities, and develop their capacities for problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, and literacy. The program also provides integrated health services and engagement opportunities for parents and families.

Early Head Start

Early Head Start serves children from birth to age three and their families. The program is designed to promote the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of infants and toddlers, providing a foundation for their future growth and learning. Services are offered in either a center-based or home-based model. Staff work intensively with families to assist them in supporting the child’s development and in achieving self-sufficiency.

Through its home-based service model, the Early Head Start program also serves eligible pregnant women through the duration of their pregnancy and post-natal period up to six weeks. Services for pregnant women include referrals and consultations on fetal development; nutrition and risk during pregnancy; labor and delivery; breastfeeding; postpartum depression; and infant care. When the child reaches six weeks of age, the family and child may continue in the home-based model or transition into the center-based model, depending on need and availability.

South Central Head Start

South Central Head Start provides Head Start and Early Head Start services for children and families with low income in the counties of Clark, Estill, Garrard, Jackson, Laurel, Madison, Powell, and Rockcastle. The program is designed to promote the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of infants and toddlers, providing a foundation for their future growth and learning. Services are offered in either a center-based or home-based model. Staff work intensively with families to assist them in supporting the child’s development and in achieving self-sufficiency.

Migrant and Seasonal Head Start

Migrant and Seasonal Head Start serves the children of migrant and seasonal farm workers, from birth to age five, and their families. This program is especially equipped to serve dual-language learners with a full range of child development and family services. Staff work with families to ensure that the learning environment is linguistically and culturally appropriate for all children. The program operates from April through December.

Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP)

Through the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership, the Council partners with established local child care facilities in the delivery of high-quality education and family engagement services. Children in EHS-CCP child development centers benefit from the reduced teacher-child ratios and increase in credentialed staff that is made available through partnership with the Council and the Office of Head Start. This program represents a return on investment of an estimated $1.3 million yearly into the local child development community.

Youth Development

The Council offers a variety of programs and services designed to support the healthy development of youth and help them avoid becoming trapped in a generational cycle of poverty. Adolescence is a critical time when individuals begin to form attitudes and make decisions that can have a profound impact on the future course of life. By building on adolescents’ own unique strengths, talents and interests, youth development programs reduce criminal activity and risky behavior and to help adolescents make sound choices as they transition into adulthood.

The Council’s youth programming promotes:

Life skills development: positive interpersonal relationships, coping methods, conflict resolution, time management, and financial responsibility

Education and career planning: academic success, continuing education, and setting and pursuing career goals

Mentoring: connections with caring, supportive adults who provide models for success

Civic involvement: activities that serve the wider community and make an impact on society at large

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Project LIFE (Learning Independence and Fostering Empowerment)

Project LIFE is a statewide program designed to assist young adults in Kentucky who are transitioning out of foster care. Participants in the program work one-on-one with dedicated case managers who help them make and achieve personal goals and become self-sufficient. Based individual needs, youth in the program receive help with locating and securing housing, managing personal finances, planning for education or a career, and improving parenting skills. 

Economic & Workforce Development

Creating economic opportunity is a priority at the Council. Since joblessness and underemployment are central factors associated with poverty, the Council works to address poverty by helping adults with job training, skills development, and continuing education. Through partnerships with employment agencies and services, the Council connects participants to potential employers and works with them to develop the skills and competencies they need to be successful. The Council also works actively to eliminate common barriers to employment, such as the need for childcare or reliable transportation.

Beyond having a job that pays a living wage, economic self-sufficiency also requires having skills and resources for managing money. The Council offers services designed to help people with low income

  • improve their financial literacy
  • build their personal and household savings
  • access all available resources and benefits, including all tax credits for which they are eligible
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Education and Child Care Opportunities (ECCO)

ECCO allows parents of Head Start-eligible children the opportunity to get free child care while working to receive their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Participants volunteer in one of the Council’s child development centers and receive coaching in financial literacy, computer skills, workplace communication, and other life management topics. Upon successful completion of the program, participants become qualified for employment at an early learning center, including any of the Council’s Head Start centers. 

In 2016 the Council piloted a workforce training program to prepare candidates to earn a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Candidates that complete the 16-week commercial driving training program, including both coursework and vehicle experience, will obtain a CDL with Passenger (P) and School Bus (S) endorsements. 

Recently the Council launched an exciting addition to the ECCO program by partnering with Maysville Community and Technical College to provide Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training for residents in the Nicholas County community.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

VITA volunteers provide free income tax preparation services for families with low to moderate income, disabled adults, the elderly, and those with limited English language skills. Volunteers are trained to provide information about special tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. 

Energy Efficiency

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, households with low income have been found to spend a disproportionate share of their income on residential heating and cooling costs. Households with low income are often unable to afford measures that would help them reduce their energy consumption, such as insulating their homes, making repairs, or installing more efficient appliances. Meanwhile, families with low energy security are at high risk of negative health impacts—for example, research by Children’s HealthWatch has shown that children in energy-insecure households are more likely to undergo hospitalizations and developmental delays.

The Council offers several programs that help households access essential utilities affordably, safely and efficiently. This not only supports the physical well-being of individuals and families and provides for their continued economic security, but also benefits the environment.

The Council’s energy efficiency programs:

Reduce energy expenditures, freeing up more room in the household budget for other necessities

Improve health and safety, especially for vulnerable individuals such as children or those who are elderly or disabled

Promote environmental sustainability by reducing energy consumption and conserving resources

Stimulate the economy by creating jobs (and volunteer opportunities) in construction, renovation and weatherization

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Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

LIHEAP is a federally-funded program that provides assistance to households with low income. The Council’s LIHEAP program offers either a one-time energy subsidy or crisis assistance to households that meet income eligibility guidelines. The type and level of assistance depends upon the household’s primary fuel type, income level, and housing circumstances. Applicants to the program receive home energy counseling and, when appropriate, referrals to free or low-cost weatherization services.

Seasonal Energy Assistance Programs

The Council partners with several Kentucky energy providers— including Delta Natural Gas, Columbia Gas, and Kentucky Utilities— to provide assistance to customers with low income. The type of assistance and eligibility varies depending on the terms of each partnership, but assistance is generally available during months of highest energy demand. Participants must apply for and accept home weatherization services, when available.


WarmWise, offered through a partnership between the Council and Columbia Gas of Kentucky, installs new furnaces with efficiency of 90% or higher in qualifying households with low income. 

Weatherization Assistance Program (WX)

The Weatherization Assistance Program improves the energy efficiency of free, subsidized, or low-cost home weatherization services to people with low income. Services are offered both to homeowners and to renters who have consent from their landlords. Weatherization includes procedures such as: repairing, calibrating or replacing heating and cooling equipment; insulating ceilings, exterior walls, floors, water lines, or ductwork; weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing door sweeps; repairing broken glass in windows and holes in walls, ceilings or floors; and checking for carbon monoxide leaks and installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Other energy-saving measures include installing high-efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs, programmable thermostats, and energy-efficient appliances such as refrigerators and furnaces.


The WinterCare program provides crisis benefits to households who have lost or are in danger of losing utility service and have few or no other resources to pay.

Housing & Mental Health

Shelter is a basic human need. The Council believes that all individuals in our community should have access to safe, decent, stable, and affordable shelter. Unfortunately, people with low or insecure income are at increased risk of experiencing homelessness—especially in areas with limited affordable housing options. Many other interrelated circumstances can also factor into one’s risk of becoming homeless: family conflicts or domestic violence; mental or physical health conditions and disabilities; substance abuse disorders; or simply one-time unforeseen crises that create financial hardship.

Housing insecurity diminishes quality of life for all people, but especially vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. The lack of access to a secure, private living space can be both a result of poverty and a hindrance to gaining the social and psychological stability needed to move out of poverty.

Operating in both rural and urban areas throughout Central Kentucky, the Council works to prevent homelessness and improve residential living conditions for individuals and families. The priorities AND goals of the Council’s housing programs are:

  • To provide emergency assistance for individuals and families who are without shelter or are in immediate danger of losing shelter
  • To provide supportive services that help remove barriers to obtaining and maintaining housing
  • To help maintain and increase the community’s stock of safe, affordable, and accessible housing
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Continuum of Care Program

The Council operates the Continuum of Care homelessness prevention program for 16 rural counties in Central Kentucky. Continuum of Care programs, funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allow for community-wide coordination and sharing of resources to address the multiple needs of people who are at risk for or experiencing homelessness. Participants may be offered housing/rental assistance and an array of supportive services that will help them move into permanent housing and achieve long-term stability.

Emergency Family Housing (EFH) program

The EFH program provides short-term emergency shelter and supportive services for two-parent and group families in Lexington-Fayette County who are experiencing homelessness.

Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program

The ESG program provides services for individuals who are experiencing or at risk for homelessness. Participants are rapidly placed in suitable housing and connected with community resources to provide stability and long-term housing security.

Permanent Housing Bonus Initiative

The Permanent Housing Bonus Initiative program is offered through a cooperative partnership between the Council and Kentucky River Foothills Development Council (KRFDC). This program provides subsidized housing and supportive services for disabled individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Project Independence

Project Independence provides housing assistance for families experiencing homelessness. Participating families are given access to shelter and provided with assistance for meeting basic needs. Program staff then work individually with families to set and meet specific goals that will allow them to move into stable permanent housing and prevent future homelessness.

Samaritan Housing Project

The Samaritan Housing Project provides housing assistance and supportive services for adults with a documented disability who are experiencing chronic homelessness.  The goal of the program is to help participants achieve stability and move toward long-term independent living.

Shepherd Place

Shepherd Place is a subsidized apartment complex for individuals age 55 and older with low income. Rent is based on each resident’s income minus eligible expenses such as medical prescriptions. Apartments are accessible for individuals with mobility, vision or hearing impairments.

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA)

The TBRA program provides rental assistance for individuals and families with low income. Participants are provided with vouchers to offset rental costs for approved private-market housing units of their choice. The program promotes fair access to housing and greater economic integration of neighborhoods.

Senior Services

The Council’s senior volunteer programs give people aged 55 and older a meaningful way to use their knowledge and life experience to contribute to the community. In addition to the many benefits the community gains from their service, volunteering provides benefits to seniors themselves. Senior volunteers gain opportunities for continuing education, specialized training, and meaningful social interactions with their peers and with those of other generations. Research has shown that seniors experience greater health benefits from volunteering than do members of other age groups.

Through Senior Corps volunteer programs, volunteers receive stipends and assistance with traveling to their volunteer stations. Volunteers participate in social activities such as quarterly Senior Socials, conferences, and health fairs. They also routinely participate in cross-generational activities with students from the University of Kentucky and other volunteer groups.

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The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP)

Volunteers in the Foster Grandparent Program work with preschool- and school-aged children, including many who have special and exceptional needs. Volunteers serve a minimum of 20 hours per week and receive an hourly stipend as well as reimbursement for travel expenses.

Through one-on-one interactions and activities, Foster Grandparents help prepare children for the cognitive, social and emotional adjustments they need to enter a more structured school environment.

FGP is a Senior Corps program, offered through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). For more information about Senior Corps, visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps/foster-grandparents

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)

Volunteers in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program serve with the Council and its partnering agencies to meet a variety of critical needs in the community. Volunteers are assigned to service stations and serve as much time as they have to offer. The Council’s RSVP volunteers do the following and more:

  • support veterans
  • mentor youth
  • provide elder care
  • assist people with disabilities
  • improve literacy
  • cultivate community gardens

RSVP is a Senior Corps program, offered through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). To learn more about Senior Corps, visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps

Emergency Assistance

The Council’s long-range goal is to create economic opportunity and support self-sufficiency. Over the short term, the Council knows that families living in poverty may need more immediate support to get through rough patches. When funds are available, the Council can help ease the burden on families in crisis by providing direct financial assistance to cover basic needs such as food, rent, or utility payments. These services provide a safety net for vulnerable members of the community, allowing their own resources to stretch a little further.

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Emergency Family Housing (EFH) program

The EFH program provides short-term emergency shelter and supportive services for two-parent and group families in Lexington-Fayette County who are experiencing homelessness.

Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP)

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program provides rent/mortgage and utility assistance to residents of Nicholas and Harrison County who have low income.

Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program

The ESG program provides services for individuals who are experiencing or at risk for homelessness. Participants are rapidly placed in suitable housing and connected with community resources to provide stability and long-term housing security.

Food Bank

Through partnership with God’s Pantry, the Council helps provide emergency food assistance by distributing food items at one of its Community Centers.