HOW IT ALL STARTED...
Community Action Network has been creating brighter futures for over 30
years! CAN was founded in 1987 by Cathy Baldwin, a resident of the
Hikone public housing neighborhood in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Nancy
Bogen, an administrator. Cathy began working with Hikone youth when she
noticed the kids were always spending unstructured time outside because
they didn’t have anything else to do. “Their parents didn’t have money to
take their kids to museums, to plays, or [to] movies,” she remembers.
So in 1981, Cathy created a youth program through Family Support
Services, a nonprofit that already provided youth programming. After five
years of field trips and activities, the organization disbanded, and support
for Hikone ended.
Cathy recalls: “Nancy [Bogen] said to me, 'You’re out here doing the
programs, I know how to do what’s needed in the office - we can do this!'”
And together they founded CAN in 1987. “I figured if you’re putting
something in the community, you need to give something back to the
people,” says Cathy. “Determination - that’s what I tried to teach the kids.
You’ve got to have self-determination.”
One of the first challenges they faced was a lack of funding. In fact, both Cathy and Nancy went unsalaried the first year. “It wasn’t like a business; it was like sisters doing something together, doing things with kids. I think that’s why we worked so well together,” says Cathy. Together, these early CAN members made a long-term commitment to provide support services to Hikone residents. Cathy encouraged her church, the Church of the Good Shepherd, to become involved. At one time, church members made up almost the entire Board of Directors. Donations from church members allowed CAN the time it needed to get funding from groups such as United Way.
The two organized music, arts and crafts, and quilting activities. In time, they hired staff to lead the programs. The pair also hired Hikone mothers and teens to chaperone field trips. Cathy’s role in CAN was to take on any position that was needed: “Art teacher when they needed it, dance teacher, science projects - you name it, I did it.”
Cathy continued working until December 22, 2000. Hikone children had become such an important part of her life, but her health conditions prevented her from returning to full-time employment. She moved to Miller Manor and continued volunteering with youth there. “The kids started coming by, and it was like being at Hikone again,” says Cathy.
Cathy tried to summarize her experience as the founder of CAN: “It’s something that will never be forgotten. It touched my heart. How can you put together a life story? I don’t know where to begin; there were so many lives that Nancy and I touched. Not only did we touch them, but people who gave money to help touched them. It can never be forgotten.”