Faber strengthening society through Action Agency

Filed under: Daily News,One on One,Print | Tags:,

After spending his career serving in the Air Force, Jim Faber wanted to continue his record of public service and that’s how he went on to become CEO of the nonprofit Pikes Peak Action Agency.

“We like to say we’re the largest nonprofit helping the most people that you’ve never heard about,” Faber said, referring to the organizations low profile.

The group helps about 18,500 people a year stay off public assistance and become self-reliant.

How long has Pikes Peak Community Action Agency been around?

Since 1964. Community action agencies were formed as part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. They sprang up around the country, bolstered by federal dollars. Since the 1980s, however, we’ve been solely nonprofit. We rely on private donations and grants to succeed.

We’re the number one referral agency from Pikes Peak United Way’s 2-1-1 line, so we help a lot of people in the community. Most of them, its one-time assistance.

What are some of the programs you offer?

We are a hand-up, not a hand-out organization. It’s not an entitlement program. We help hard-working families, those who are living paycheck to paycheck, and who hit a bump in the road. If they need a month’s rent, a house payment, a car repair. Most of these people only need help once, and then we never see them again. It keeps them from falling into debit, from going on public assistance. We can offer help in the form of food assistance, utilities, transportation.

We also offer education assistance — if anyone wants a better job, or skills to get a job. We’ve helped train a lot of Certified Nursing Assistants. That’s a five-week course, and we’ll assist with school, with day care. We’ve helped 17 people get associate degrees this year, and one or two bachelor’s degrees. We’ve even helped with a master’s degree.

Two other programs: we match adults’ savings accounts. If they save $1,000, we give them $2,000 — but it must be used for education, to buy a home or to start a small business. About 75 percent of the small businesses started are still profitable today.

And finally, we have a similar savings program for at-risk teenagers. If they save $2,000, we match it with $4,000 for their educational expenses. The goal is to motivate them, to give these teens some small measure of success, so they know they can do it. Every high school drop-out costs the community about $400,000 over their lifetime. We can stop that.

Are there any new programs that you plan to start?

We want to start a business. We’re an agency that teaches self-reliance. We give people a chance to succeed in life. So we’re exploring social enterprise — we think it’s a natural fit.

Social enterprise businesses are like those at Goodwill or at Aspen Pointe. We are going to create a business where we can employ clients who are ready for new job skills and training. We can teach financial bookkeeping, that kind of thing. We think it will help people become more marketable in the future. We’ve just started exploring it.

Has the economy been challenging for you?

It has been challenging, in that we’re helping about 15 percent more people over the last few years. So that’s the challenging part. But while fundraising is hard, the recession highlights for people that there are people out there who need help. They know someone in trouble — someone who’s being foreclosed on, someone who needs a car payment — so they’re more aware. It’s the interesting thing about social services; people always are more alert to the need in bad times. In good times, they tend to stop paying attention.