West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and its New Growth community development corporation are recipients of a $20,000 Coover Regional Grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks in partnership with Commerce Trust Company. Funding will kick off the neighborhood-based El Dorado Works! Program. It is one of 20 projects funded out of 100 applications from across central and southern Missouri.

El Dorado Works! will combine job assessment and readiness programming with family and social supports, such as drop-in child care and community meals. Located in the former Liston School building, it will anchor and attract additional partners, services, and investments. They include youth programming, classes for high school equivalency and college credit, financial counseling and healthy food programs. Planning is underway, for example, with Osage Prairie YMCA for a summer camp childcare program that would co-locate in the renovated Liston School, which will become the Liston Development Center.

Programs will serve all area residents but focus on creating a welcoming and supportive place for families in the Liston Neighborhood to begin finding their way out of poverty, said Chris Thompson, CEO and President of West Central Community Action Agency and New Growth.

The need is great and affects everyone in El Dorado Springs and the larger region. Comparisons of household poverty indicate that 14 percent of Missourians live in poverty; in Cedar County, 19.8 percent; climbing to 33.6 percent in El Dorado Springs and doubling in the Liston neighborhood to 65 percent.

“We are thankful for the El Dorado Springs community’s willingness to share their resources and time in developing this neighborhood revitalization initiative,” Thompson said. “Together we can transform lives by transforming how we work with people and communities in need.”

The initiative’s lead local partner is the El Dorado Youth Center board, which owns and renovated the Liston School and has operated youth programming there. West Central, New Growth, Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission and community stakeholders began working last fall together with the board to build a new approach to community need and opportunity.

Neighborhood surveys and a town hall meeting generated overwhelming agreement and clear direction. Residents said: “We need jobs…education…childcare.”

The El Dorado Works! program and related Liston Development Center is a wraparound approach inspired by Springfield Missouri’s Northwest Project, said Kelly Ast, New Growth’s community initiatives coordinator. It combines social supports, such as child care and community meals, with technical supports, such as classes and other training.

“This is how we can help ensure people make real and sustainable progress toward income, health, and personal goals,” she said.

Stay tuned to NewGrowthMO.org or our Facebook page for ongoing information about El Dorado Works! and the Liston Development Center. Or contact coordinator Kelly Ast at 660-476-2185.