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About Us

The Community Action Organization of WNY was incorporated in 1965 and operates anti-poverty programs in Erie and Niagara counties.

CAO is on the frontlines every day to mitigate the effects of poverty, on low-income communities throughout Western New York. As experts on poverty, we are leading the charge to provide solutions that empower our clients to become self-reliant. Annually, CAO serves more than 50,000 families and individuals in Western New York through various programs and services. Learn more about CAO through our 2020 Community Impact Report.

Thank You to Recently Retired CAO and President L. Nathan Hare

We want to give special thanks to former CEO and President L. Nathan Hare for serving CAO for 18 years. 

During his time of service, Hare developed CAO into one of the largest social service agencies in the area and one of the nation’s most successful community action programs. As a true servant leader, activist, and anti-poverty leader he led the agency to tremendous financial success, with over 800 employees, and serving nearly 50,000 individuals each year.

Hare has dedicated most of his life working with youth employment, youth training and education, foster care, social services, and juvenile justice. 

He started his position with CAO in 2002 – beginning his tenure at a time when the agency was in very difficult financial circumstances and was struggling to avoid collapse.  Under Hare’s leadership, the agency eliminated its operating deficit and erased its crushing debt, converting them into annual surpluses and significant lines of credit.  Between 2002 and the present, he also increased the agency’s operating revenue from under $20,000,000 to well over $40,000,000.  In addition, he brought the agency’s employee headcount from just over 300 to well over 800.  He also dramatically expanded the number and quality of program offerings that were aimed more broadly at eliminating the root causes of poverty and the lack of opportunity in Western New York.

In 2011, after several years of planning, preparation, and construction he led, Hare presided over the opening of St. Martin Village — a newly-built 60-unit affordable-housing development at the former German Roman Catholic Orphanage Homesite.  The St. Martin Village project turned a horrible blight on the community into an oasis of decent housing and opportunity for that East Side neighborhood.

Hare’s integrated approach to poverty alleviation by addressing its complex and interrelated causes has made him one of the most sought-after experts in New York State’s War on Poverty. He has offered his profound perspective on public policy, poverty, youth development, and the state of the economy. 

We are grateful for L. Nathan Hare’s dedication, service, and sacrifice to CAO and our community.

"I am a single mother and my daughter has been a part of CAO programs like Head Start, NURTURE and the Sports P.L.U.S. program since age 3. I would like to thank the people at CAO for giving their time to not only my daughter, but helping me finish my graduate degree and become debt free after losing my job."

Sheritta Ward

"I am a very proud parent of a child who has been in a CAO Head Start Academy for the last two years. Next year, he will be going to Global Concepts Charter School because of the patient, kind hearted, professional and intelligent teachers at CAO that always go above and beyond what they need to."

Kelly Kreuder

"I would like to thank CAO for allowing me to pursue my education as an Education Task Force recipient. Coming from a single parent household wasn't the easiest but I pushed through and I am glad to say that I will be continuing my education to receive my Doctorate in Organizational Leadership and Change."

John Roberts