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 area residents.

1981 - AEOA implements the Adult Basic/Continuing Education Program which helps adults improve skills in basic education, daily living, and employability.

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.

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.

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.

AEOA Departments

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