Agency History

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act and, in essence, declared a “war on poverty.”  Community officials, service providers, schools, and neighbors came together to plan and implement programs and services to help low-income people and called it “Community Action.”

The Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) was incorporated in April, 1965, as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and established as a Community Action Program (CAP) for the northeast Minnesota counties of St. Louis, Lake, and Cook. Service delivery for some programs has extended to the four neighboring counties of Aitkin, Carlton, Itasca, and Koochiching.

Currently, AEOA employs more than 350 full- and part-time staff and utilizes more than a thousand volunteers divided among five major departments: Arrowhead Transit, Head Start, Housing, Employment and Training, and Senior Services. For more information on each department, click on the corresponding links in the menu above.

The story of AEOA's first 40+ years can be outlined by the following key events which reflect the Agency's growing impact on our community:

1965 - AEOA is established!

1966 - Rural youth improve academic skills while enjoying Camp Buckskin near Ely.

1967 - Outreach Workers survey the needs of the people and help shape the future of AEOA.

1968 - AEOA collaborates with the Range Bar Association and area judges to generate support for a free legal aid program for low-income people.

1969 - Recognizing the need for chemical dependency treatment on the Iron Range, AEOA starts the Arrowhead Center for Problem Drinking, which later becomes a separate organization.

1970 - The Mayor's Conference on Aging is the beginning of an effort to establish programs for senior citizens.

1971 - AEOA establishes the Arrowhead Community Economic Assistance Corporation.

1972 - The first Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in the state of Minnesota begins.

1973 - The Elderly Nutrition Project helps seniors live independently in their own homes.

1974 - AEOA delivers Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) programs for low income individuals.

1975 - The "Energy Crisis" prompts a new Fuel and Energy Program.

1976 - AEOA begins offering home rehabilitation programs to low-income homeowners.

1977 - In further response to the energy crisis, AEOA provides emergency assistance to poor and elderly people with fuel costs.

1978 - AEOA, as a Title I lender, expands its housing rehabilitation programs.

1979 - Transit ridership doubles and continues to grow until Arrowhead Transit is now the largest rural public transportation system in the nation.

1980 - Congress enacts Low-Income Home Energy Assistance allowing AEOA to serve a greater number of area residents.

1981 - AEOA implements the Adult Basic/Continuing Education Program which helps adults improve skills in basic education, daily living, and employability.
Senior Services held the first ever All-County Senior Picnic.

1982 - Agency economic development activities incorporate into the Arrowhead Community Economic Assistance Corporation (ACEAC).

1983 - AEOA develops the Apple Tree Learning Center child care facility and opens a network of Food Shelves.

1984 - Lives In Transition for displaced homemakers provides each client with education, counseling, and retraining to building self-esteem.

1985 - Arrowhead Transit receives national recognition when nominated as the Outstanding Rural Transportation System of the Year.

1986 - AEOA launches the Hospitality Host Program, combining the region's talented older workers and the growing tourism industry.

1987 - AEOA helps develop the American Indian Employment Program in conjunction with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

1988 - AEOA partners with Twin Cities agencies to help the unemployed find fulltime jobs, housing, and financial assistance to relocate to the metropolitan area

1989 - Construction begins on Arrowhead Transit's new regional headquarters in Gilbert.

1990 - AEOA's 25th anniversary celebration and grand opening of Arrowhead Transit's new headquarters.

1991 - The Agency acquires a main frame computer to centralize information technology.

1992 - An updated Agency mission statement is developed and adopted by the Board.

1993 - The Agency puts considerable effort into a community needs assessment survey to analyze the needs of low-income residents.

1994 - Welfare reform is on the top of most legislative agendas, with changes occurring in welfare-to-work strategies. Arrowhead Transit's Grand Rapids Facility was built.

1995 - Senior Services begins the ROCK program (Raising Our Children’s Kids) to offer support for grandparents who are the primary caregiver of their grandchildren.

1996 - Housing Services begins operation of a homeless shelter in the city of Virginia.

1997 - YouthBuild collaborates with Housing to renovate a single-room occupancy apartment complex for homeless individuals.

1998 - Employment and Training and Transit help public assistance MFIP recipients’ transition from welfare-to-work.

1999 - A comprehensive Community Needs Assessment of 595 low-income households helps analyze the concerns of low-income households in our area.

2000 - Head Start reopens in Virginia and also begins providing in-home counseling services.
Senior Services expands Senior Dining/Meals on Wheels to Itasca and Koochiching Counties

2001 - The new Human Resources department aids in selection, retention and training of staff.

2002 - AEOA completes a new facility in Two Harbors for the Transit, Adult Basic Education, Head Start, and Housing programs.

2003 - Head Start was awarded a Federal Early Head Start grant to serve an additional 50 pregnant women, infants, and toddlers.

2004 - Senior Services expands the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) to Duluth.
Senior Services also launches the rural Bundled Delivery service model in Aitkin County; a collaborative partnership with private and human service agencies that “bundles” several services – prepared meals, grocery delivery and medication pick-up – and delivers the “bundle to the 
homes of homebound seniors in rural and remote areas.

2005 - AEOA celebrates 40 years. The AEOA Foundation is created to strengthen our financial security for the long-term.

2006 - Head Start’s “Caries Away” program helps pregnant women and children ages birth to 3 years receive oral health services. Arrowhead Transit acquired Cloquet Dial-a-Ride operations.

2007 - AEOA completes a community assessment that is essentially the “voice of the people.”

2008 - The Rural Rides project is developed by Transit to address the most frequently mentioned and challenging barrier to employment: reliable transportation. Arrowhead Transit's International Falls Facility was built.

2009 - Senior Services expands Senior Dining / Meals on Wheels to Duluth. Virginia Youth Foyer ground-breaking and site development commenced.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides $132 million dollars to the State of Minnesota for the Weatherization Assistance Program; the largest increase in funding in the history of the program.
Land is purchased, and the construction begins on the Youth Foyer, creating 15 new units of housing in the City of Virginia.

2010 – Early Head Start was awarded funding through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and added an additional 32 families.

2011 – AEOA hired more than 50 employees to help with the demand of the expanding Weatherization Program. Eighty percent (80%) of those hired had been unemployed prior.
Arrowhead Transit added Pine County to its service area.

2012 – Senior Services receives SNAP outreach funds to provide outreach and application assistance to seniors and other eligible people in St. Louis County.
AEOA partners with the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to create the Business Energy Retrofit Program which provides funding to rehabilitate businesses in the Taconite Assistance Area.
Expansion of Transitional Housing for AEOA Youth Service in Koochiching and Itasca Counties funded by the Bremer Foundation and OEO – RHYA.
Arrowhead Transit received a grant from Blandin and was able to rebrand its busses and logo.

2013 – The Northern Lights Association dissolves and transitions the Senior Partners Care Program to Senior Services.
AEOA received an enrollment grant through MNsure and began a partnership with three other community action agencies to form a coalition to assist consumers with applying for medical assistance and Minnesota Care.
Arrowhead Transit built an addition on to their building in Gilbert to provide a custom designed office space for dispatchers.

2014 – AEOA and KOOTASCA Community Action entered into a unique partnership for shared service direct and administrative services. AEOA was given a Promising Practice award from MinnCap for this partnership.
Arrowhead Transit leased a garage in Sandstone for its Pine County buses.

2015 – Partnered with Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability and launched the Rutabaga Project; providing healthy, local food to low-income neighborhoods.
Elder Services Network dissolves and transitions the Grocery-to-Go service, the medical equipment loan closet, and provider network to Senior Services.

2016 – Begins to offer EBT services at the Hibbing and Virginia Farmers Markets
Historic Ivy Manor is purchased with plans to rehabilitate and preserve 41 units of housing in the City of Virginia.
The Dislocated Worker Project aids those who lost their jobs with Mesabi Academy when the facility closed in Buhl, MN.

2017 – Expands EBT services to the Cook Farmers Market.
Started Community Care Auto Repair, a social enterprise endeavor where the market supports the mission of providing affordable car repair services to struggling community members.
Arrowhead Transit leased a garage in Hermantown for its new Hermantown Dial-A-Ride service.
YouthBuild Youth at Work Equity serving Native American youth on the Bois Forte Reservation in Nett Lake. Nineteen (19) youth were involved in renovation and remodeling of tribal housing units.
The Dislocated Worker Project aids those who lost their jobs with Jarden’s Inc. in Cloquet, MN when the facility closed.

2018 – Community Care Auto Repair officially opened to the public
Ivy Manor was completed. An Open House, ribbon cutting, and luncheon was held to commemorate the event.