EOPA to unveil new name

Agency back on feet after losing Head Start funding

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    The Blade
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  • The Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo will soon get a new name that agency leaders say matches a new identity.

    The agency on Friday will unveil its new name, part of a broader rebranding strategy and restructuring of both the agency and its mission. The effort began last summer, after EOPA lost its largest source of funds when the federal government took away its Head Start grant.

    That loss sparked an identity crisis for the anti-poverty agency. Now, EOPA leaders say, they're starting to find themselves.

    They hired a new chief executive officer in Stanley Lowe and tasked him with identifying new partners and funding sources, and with evaluating and reorganizing the agency. They added new board members and focused on training. And they’ve shored up finances.

    When EOPA lost the Head Start grant, the agency's annual budget dropped to about $4 million from about $18 million. Now, it's at about $7 million.

    While EOPA officials wouldn't say what the new name will be — they wanted to wait for the ceremony — they did say EOPA’s new brand would both reference the decades of work completed, while also looking toward the future.

    “We need a name that represents how we look forward,” Mr. Lowe said.

    The new name includes a tagline — economic opportunity, community empowerment — that hearkens to the old identity. The reinvention process isn't over yet, board chairman Paul Ross said. They're still working on finalizing a new mission, vision, and values.

    EOPA’s improved finances are thanks in large part to two new programs. The largest is $2.4 million from the county to run the Lucas County Empowerment Program, a summer job placement program for people ages 16-24 that had been run by the Lucas County Workforce Development Agency and Lucas County Department of Job and Family Services.

    The program will place about 700 teens and young adults in the work force from this month through late September. Mr. Lowe said he has identified about 100 potential employers that could accept the workers. The workers receive $8 an hour for eight weeks. This year, the program has a beefed up training program, Mr. Lowe and Ms. Ross said.

    On Friday, 250 young adults will be informed they've been selected, and Mr. Lowe said he expects several dozen employers will sign agreements to hire employees at the event. The ultimate goal, he said, is that the young adults end up with full-time, meaningful employment after the program.

    The agency also received $125,000 through Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy to provide base-load services to improve energy efficiency in low-income homes. They will determine if appliances are energy efficient; if they are not, the program pays for replacement appliances, reducing the energy cost for residents.

    Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.