Friday, December 17, 2010

CANI: Helping Your Neighbor Since 1965

This year, CANI (Community Action of Northeast Indiana) is celebrating 45 years of helping people in the communities where we live and work.

In 1965, William G. Williams helped start the Allen County Economic Opportunity Council, the predecessor of CANI. During his administration, the ACEOC operated 11 varied programs, including Head Start, Legal Services, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Economic Development, Emergency Food and Medical Services, Youth Development, Neighborhood Services System, Foster Grandparents, and Planning and Research. Several of these programs are still in existence in some form.

Today, CANI is a private, non-profit agency that promotes economic and community development by providing resources, helping people gain access to opportunities, and teaching them the skills they need to become self-sufficient.

CANI provides one or more programs and services in Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Wells, Steuben and Whitley counties. CANI is involved in economic development, family development, mentoring, adult education, and job training. We provide families access to quality child care, preschool education, emergency food and utility assistance, affordable and livable housing, and medical and dental care. This is how CANI Fights Poverty and Builds Hope.

Chances are you know someone who has been helped by CANI at some point in their lives. Maybe it’s the single mom next door who received vouchers to help with childcare expenses, or possibly the elderly couple across the street on a fixed income who received help paying their heating bills.

If you look around, it’s easy to see how CANI is an active force in your community. CANI helped 32,581 people in northeast Indiana in 2009.

The bleak Census figures recently reported in the news certainly justify CANI’s work. Last year's 43.6 million low-income people, including 15.5 million children, comprise the highest number of Americans living in poverty in the past 50 years. Overall, the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 3.7 million to 14.3 percent, a nearly 1 percent increase from 2008. That translates to more than one in five children living in poverty!

So how does CANI respond to such news?

By providing a wide-range of services, in the most efficient and effective way possible in order to maximize the use of available resources. We listen to the needs of the community and respond by developing ways to address these needs. CANI is the only agency of its kind in our region and we have the ability to reach the most people with the greatest needs.

To that end, CANI increasingly relies on gifts from local individuals, companies and foundations to continue AND expand our work.

What is the return on investment for helping people out of poverty?

If each of the families CANI helps who are below the poverty level moved to exactly 100 percent of the poverty level there would be a total increase in income of $375,471 per month. Projecting that out to the entire CANI service population would mean an increase in income of $6,736,778 per month, or $80,841,339 per year – over $80 million dollars being spent in your community! And this is just moving people to the federal definition of poverty. The impact of moving people to a level where they can meet all their basic needs (roughly double the federal poverty level) increases exponentially.

For more information about CANI or how to make an investment in your community, contact Jennifer Renner at (260) 399-4103 or, or visit

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