When President Lyndon Johnson declared "unconditional war on poverty" twenty-eight years ago, his goal was to provide the opportunity for every American to enjoy the benefits of the nation's new theme: "The Great Society." The Economic Opportunity Act, signed into law by Johnson on August 20, 1964, established a network of local organizations that have been working to fulfill that dream in nearly every community in the nation.
Pittsylvania County was not be left out.... primarily because of a handful of "community action pioneers" who rode the back of that national campaign to ensure that this county was included.
Mr. Irvin Burton was one of the community leaders who spearheaded the creation of a community action agency in Pittsylvania County. The initial idea was sparked when Mr. Burton noticed an article entitled, "The War on Poverty" in a West Virginia newspaper. The article described an organization that was building a walk bridge in a rural community. Not only was this community improvement, but it was providing jobs for the unemployed in the community.
Burton said he read the article with "great interest” and due to tremendous insight on his part, he recognized how this new type of organization, called a community action agency, could benefit Pittsylvania County.
Mr. Burton went to see Mr. Frank Walton, the supervisor for the Dan River District at that time. Mr. Walton expressed interest in the idea and made a few contacts of his own. Mr. James Combs, Superintendent of Pittsylvania County Schools, was one of those contacts. Realizing it would be of great advantage to the school system if the area could benefit from the different federal programs which were available, Mr. Combs pledged his support.
Support grew within the community and a meeting was held to initiate plans to organize a community action agency in Pittsylvania County. Attending the meeting were the members of the Board of Supervisors, School Superintendent Combs, Assistant School Superintendent Charles Hagberg, and many community representatives, including Mr. Burton, Mr. Clyde Banks (President of the NAACP), Reverend Frank Greene, Mr. Jesse Clark, members of the NAACP, Mr. Albert Tippet (Principal of Northside High School), and Mr. William Turner (Principal of Southside High School).
Following these meetings, Mr. Clyde Banks was elected to be the first president of the Board of Directors, and Mr. Burton, who were members of the Personnel Committee, hired Mr. Robert Dirk as the first Executive Director of PCCA.
Since that time, there have been three Executive Directors, including Mr. Kenneth Thorson, Rev. Charles Miller, and Mr. Sherman Saunders, present Director.
Over the past thirty eight years, PCCA staff rolls have increased to over 100 employees. Most agency components have doubled in size and/or operations.
PCCA has become a multi-jurisdiction agency. This agency is the designated Community Action for Pittsylvania County, the City of Danville, the City of Martinsville, and Henry County.
PCCA's success as a human service provider is evidenced by its continuing growth, the acceptance and respect it receives from the communities it serves and its ability to move forward undaunted by adversities.