History of AEOA



 War On Poverty


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. 

The story of AEOA's first 50+ years can be outlined by the following key events which reflect the Agency's growing impact in the Arrowhead region:


  • AEOA partnered with the USDA as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to ensure people in the Arrowhead region had access to had access to food during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over several months, AEOA staff and volunteers distributed over ½ million lbs of fresh and frozen food to families in need through these free food distribution events.


  • The Quad City Food Shelf (QCFS) relocated from Gilbert to 8367 Enterprise Drive N. in Mt. Iron. With the assistance of AEOA, QCFS purchased and renovated a 6,000 square foot building in Mt. Iron that officially opened the doors on Oct 23, 2019. 
  • The Rutabaga Project planted a Community Food Forrest next to Pine Mill Court.


  • 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.


  • Expanded 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • AEOA completes a community assessment that is essentially the “voice of the people.


  • 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.


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


  • Senior Services expands the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) to Duluth.
  • Senior Services 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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


  • 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.


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


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


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


  • AEOA's celebrates 25 years in action.
  • Grand opening of Arrowhead Transit's new headquarters.


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


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


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


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


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


  • AEOA develops the Apple Tree Learning Center childcare facility
  • AEOA opens a network of Food Shelves.


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


  • 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.


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


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


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


  • In further response to the energy crisis, AEOA provides emergency fuel cost assistance to the elderly and low-income individuals.


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


  • The "Energy Crisis" prompts a new Fuel and Energy Program.


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


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


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


  • AEOA establishes the Arrowhead Community Economic Assistance Corporation.


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


  • 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.


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


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


  • In further response to the energy crisis, AEOA provides emergency fuel cost assistance to the elderly and low-income individuals.


  • AEOA is established!
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