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Alabama’s community action agencies gather virtually this week for annual conference

The Community Action Association of Alabama is holding its annual conference this week in recognition of May as federal Community Action Month. Because of health and safety concerns related to the pandemic, organizers have made this year’s gathering virtual from May 18-20.

Community Action Association of Alabama is the umbrella network for the state’s community action agencies, nonprofit organizations committed to tackling poverty. Alabama has 20 regional agencies, including the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity, based in Birmingham. Its mission is to “reduce poverty and help low-income citizens of Jefferson County, Alabama, to meet critical needs and become self-sufficient.”

Organizers of the three-day conference have lined up more than two dozen speakers to provide expertise and insight on topics ranging from “Taking Care of Stress and Your Mental Health” to “Eight Ways to Enhance Your Personal Brand” to “Engaging Your Board During a Pandemic.”

Executive Director Kris Rowe responded Tuesday to questions from Alabama NewsCenter about the importance of convening this year’s conference, even in a virtual format.

ANC: What’s the purpose of the conference?

Rowe: The Annual Community Action Conference is held with community action professionals and board members in mind to provide the latest in policy and programmatic updates, as well as management and governance tools while also celebrating May as Community Action Month.

ANC: How does the conference benefit the clients of community action agencies around the state?

Rowe: Attendees will learn what’s coming next and gain reinforcement on federal and state regulations. This information is invaluable to the CAA agencies to better serve the individuals, families and their communities.

ANC: How many people have registered for the conference, and what are some of the highlights you have lined up for them?

Rowe: Each year, through trainings and conferences such as our annual conference, local agencies gain insight, best practices and capacity needed to maintain compliance and fulfill their mission. This year we have 200 participants with over 20 trainers and speakers from all over the country. Topics and sessions include the following: Social Determinants of Health, Program Updates from our state and national partners, COBRA Laws, Marketing and Branding, COVID-specific finance and funding issues, Raising and Preserving the Low-Income Voice of the Tri-partite Board, New Workplace Regulations, Strategic Planning in a Pandemic, Stress and Mental Health, and so much more.

ANC: Is the conference open to the public, and, if so, how do people register or otherwise attend the conference?

Rowe: The conference is open to the public. Anyone interested in joining the event should contact Renae Dismuke via email at

ANC: What are advantages and disadvantages to doing it virtually?

Rowe: Although we truly miss the fellowship and the added value of being in-person, we are excited about the future and the knowledge we’ve gained utilizing virtual platforms. This year, we learned that being virtual has allowed us to provide more content while also reaching more people than we ever have before. We have surpassed our goal of 150 registrants, marking this year as the highest number of participants at our annual conference.

ANC: What are your personal expectations or goals for the conference? What do you hope attendees take away from this time together?

Rowe: We are sincerely hopeful that participants gain the knowledge and the empowerment needed to be reenergized as they continue to be the difference and the change needed in their communities and in the lives of the thousands of Alabamians across the state.