Community Action Agencies Impact Oklahomans in Need

Great Plains Improvement Foundation (GPIF) is one of Oklahoma’s 19 community action agencies. These agencies are located across the state and individually serve different areas to ensure that all 77 Oklahoma counties receive support and assistance.

GPIF, which primarily serves Comanche County in southwest Oklahoma, has been assisting low income people since 1968 through a variety of projects, including anti-poverty programs which have substantially decreased poverty in southwest Oklahoma. Other programs available through GPIF include Child Support Services, Child & Adult Care food program and the Rx for Oklahoma program.

“People seek out community action programs because of the proven success of our services and the commitment the staff has to serve others,” said Sheryl White, Executive Director of GPIF. “We have been serving the residents of Comanche county for over 55 years with a myriad of programs that meet the needs of those facing challenges in their everyday living situations. Our mission is to ‘improve the overall quality of life and economic vitality for the customer and the service area by promoting opportunities, in order to achieve a better standard of living.’”

Commerce spoke with Sheryl White, Executive Director of GPIF, to gain a better understanding of the functions of GPIF.

What programs does GPIF implement? Currently, we are operating eight programs which include: Child and Adult Care Food program, Child Support Services, Rx of Oklahoma, C. Carter Crane Emergency Homeless Shelter, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, Weatherization, Transitional Housing and Homebuyer Education. Which programs are the most utilized in your area?  Our most popular and utilized program is the Child Support Services program. Next, would be the emergency shelter program and, during tax season, it is be the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.

Do these programs have the funds and volunteer base needed to serve all those in need? Yes, these programs are funded to provide the services that are required. The emergency shelter and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program utilizes volunteers daily to assist with the operations and delivery of services.

Tell us about of the housing programs GPIF offers? GPIF has provided safe and affordable housing in this community for many years, and hopes to continue doing so. We have built partnerships with the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, City of Lawton and local businesses within the community to construct and rehab our housing stock. The transitional housing program provides shelter to individuals and/or families that are coming out of a homeless situation and/or shelter. We currently have 14 single family homes ranging from 2 to 4 bedrooms in the City of Lawton. In addition to those, there are 2 duplexes in Chattanooga that are also low-income housing. We also have a 24-unit apartment complex in Fletcher.  

Tell about National Neighbor Works Week which GPIF recently participated in.  This annual event is part of the United Way Day of Caring. The focus of this event is to solicit local businesses to come out and perform a service project for a local organization that receive United Way funding. Our shelter program is the beneficiary of this event and, this year, the shelter received an interior paint job, landscaping and  the sign outside was also repositioned and painted. 

Tell us about your Child Support Enforcement Program? Child Support Services (CSS) is one of the major programs of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. It is implemented in Comanche and Cotton counties by GPIF through Lawton CSS. CSS works with parents, guardians, courts, employers and other agencies to ensure that children receive the reliable and dependable support they need. The child support program helps families become stronger and more self-sufficient while at the same time decreasing reliance on governmental assistance. The Lawton office provides the following services: paternity establishment, location of missing parents, establishment of child and medical support orders, enforcement of support orders, modifications of support orders. They also work with other states to obtain child support and collect and distribute child support payments. 

What advice would you have for other CAAs for making the most of their programs? Always find ways to improve your service delivery. Be willing to adjust existing programs to meet the needs of your community. Seek partnerships at the local, state and federal levels to pool and leverage resources. Take every opportunity to market your agency and its programs. And lastly, find people who have the heart and dedication to help others and make a change in their community. 

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