About > History

The History of NORWESCAP and the Story of Community Action

NORWESCAP is a private, non-profit corporation originally established in 1965 under the Economic Opportunity Act to serve the low-income population of Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren Counties.

The Community Action Agency, under “Johnson’s Great Society” was the local vehicle to fight poverty. Elimination of poverty was one of the issues in the forefront during the years of 1964-1974.

Johnson was inspired by President Kennedy and wanted to provide equal opportunity for all by enacting new services and programs within the federal system.  Community Action was a bold way for the government to provide services and it maximized local control and participation.

The Northwest New Jersey Community Action Partnership had great political power in the community and the state in 1966, along with a $3 million budget and the administrative staff of the Executive Director and three Assistant Directors. The agency was in the community with one dozen service centers (outreach offices) in the three counties providing direct access to agency staff in the community. 
In the years 1974 through August of 1981, the Community Service Agency was the successor to the Office of Economic Opportunity. This was the beginning of hard times for Community Action Programs. In 1976, NORWESCAP had a budget totaling $1 million, and in 1977, a budget totaling $2 million. 1979 brought an increase in both programs and additional funding sources with a $4 million budget. The Onmibus Reconciliation Act dissolved the Community Service Agency (CSA) in 1981. Many considered this the official end to the war on poverty. About 800 of the community action agencies across the nation dissolved, leaving approximately 1,000 agencies.

September 1981 was the start of the Community Services Block Grant, the successor to the CSA. This new block grant is in the Office of Community Services within the Department of Human Services and dramatically changed the way federal funding was distributed to local communities.

1981 was a bleak year for NORWESCAP with the closeout of all Community Services Administration contracts and reduction in funds for various programs.  The CSA funding of $1.5 million dollars became a block grant of $154,000. The very dedicated staff that remained increased their workload in order to serve the same number of persons in Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren Counties.

In 1985, the agency expanded to Somerset County providing WIC and weatherization services. Later, NORWESCAP expanded to Morris County, who was without a community action program. NORWESCAP now services approximately 35,000 persons in its service area a year.  Services have continued in Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, Warren and other counties including Passaic have some limited services and programs. 

The Agency has remained true to maximum participation and has a 15 member Board of Trustees that includes one-third of board members that are low income or represent low income individuals.  The agency employs about 300 persons, both full and part time,  dedicated to housing development, energy conservation, child care, Head Start, volunteerism, nutrition, child care referral, outreach, information & referral, food bank, case management, and utility assistance programs. The agency is administratively responsible to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.  Community Action remains an important local resource for families with NORWESCAP and other agencies across the country demonstrating their cost effective service delivery method which creates thriving communities.

  • 1963 – President Kennedy directs several federal departments to include “anti-poverty measures” in his 1967 legislative program.
  • 1963 – March on Washington
  • January 1964 – President Johnson declares “War on Poverty.”
  • February 1964 – Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan Show
  • August 1964 – President Johnson signs Economic Opportunity Act creating community action programs
  • February 1965 – Office of Economic Opportunity announces plans for Head Start
  • July 20, 1965 – Bob Littell and others incorporate the Northwest New Jersey Community Action Program (NORWESCAP)
  • August 1965 – Lady Bird Johnson comes to NORWESCAP to open Head Start site
  • May 1966 – Henry Ford II states “business leaders have a duty to join the “War on Poverty.”
  • Summer 1968 – The Community Food and Nutrition Program starts
  • Summer 1969 – Woodstock and first man on the moon
  • 1973 – Retired Senior Volunteer Program starts
  • 1973 – Paris Accords signed and the end of the Vietnam War
  • 1974 - Weatherization begins
  • 1975 - Sussex gets Head Start summer program
  • 1977 – Women Infant and Children Supplemental Food (WIC) starts
  • 1978 – LIHEAP services begin
  • 1981 – The Community Services Administration is dismantled and the Community Services Block Grant is funded – For NORWESCAP, it meant that a 1.5 million dollar grant was reduced to $150,000 and many staff is eliminated.
  • 1982 Cheese distribution
  • 1983 – Terry Newhard appointed 5th Executive Director of NORWESCAP
  • 1984 - First CD players hit the market at $800
  • 1984 – Expanded services to Somerset County with WIC
  • 1985 – Food Bank opens
  • 1985 – Expand to Morris County
  • 1986 - GAO study concludes community action “is a necessary and vital program for the poor.”
  • 1988 – Child & Family Resources starts in Warren
  • 1990 – WIC expands into Sussex County
  • 1991 – Family Self Sufficiency in launched in Morris County at the housing authorities
  • 1993 – ECHO housing project starts
  • 1995 – Sussex Seniors Apartments open
  • 1996 – Speaker Gingrich agrees to dramatically increase CSBG funding
  • 1996 – Welfare reform signed into law
  • 1996 – NORWESCAP gets one of the first 17 Early Head Start grants
  • 1996 – Old Firth School transferred to NORWESCAP from Phillipsburg School District for headquarters
  • 1997 – Robin Hill apartments purchased and opened
  • 1999 – Family Success Center opens
  • 1999 - Expanded services into Passaic County with Family Self Sufficiency
  • 2001 – Family Loan Program opens and has provided $475,000 in loans
  • 2001 – Attack in the World Trade Center
  • 2002 – Transition Center for Women opens
  • 2003 – Morris RSVP merges with NORWESCAP
  • 2004 - Facebook launched
  • 2005 – The board transitions over the Carver Governance process
  • 2005 – Listed in top 35 nonprofits in NJ
  • 2006 – Career & Life Planning Center for Women opens
  • 2007 – CEED program comes under NORWESCAP from Warren Hospital
  • 2007 – Circles (now Pathways to Prosperity) opens in Sussex
  • 2008 – First African American president elected in US
  • 2008 – First Arthur & Friends greenhouse opens in Sussex
  • 2009 – Stimulus Package signed and NORWESCAP initiatives several pilot programs
  • 2009 – Homeless prevention services start
  • 2010 – Named in the top 50 nonprofits to work for
  • 2010 – Received NJ Business Innovation Award
  • 2011 – End of Shuttle program
  • 2012 – Superstorm Sandy
  • 2013 – We change our name from “Program” to “Partnership.”
  • 2013 – NORWESCAP board establishes first development program
  • 2014 – 150th graduate of the Individual Development Account Program graduates with a total of $8.4 million in assets purchased

Norwescap New Jersey History