“Water is life.” How would you describe that phrase? For some, those three words are just words: a simple phrase that doesn’t mean much. For us at SERCAP, however, that phrase is the reason we exist.
Access to clean, usable water seems so commonplace in the United States that we never question it. As recently as the mid-1900s, however, there were plenty of communities struggling to survive without water access. A survey done by Total Action Against Poverty (TAP) in 1960 revealed that an overwhelming number of communities in the Roanoke Valley didn’t have access to clean water, and were forced to use contaminated stream water, rain water, or buy water from the store. Horrified by these results, TAP started the Demonstration Water Project. This project was created to develop water systems in rural areas while providing community residents the resources needed to address their own water problems. “Our founders knew the importance of water and how it can bring a community out of poverty,” said SERCAP’s CEO, Hope Cupit. The project was so successful that the Federal Office of Economic Opportunity replicated it on a national level in 1973. The project eventually became the Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP.) Today, RCAP is made up of six regional, non-profit centers. One of which, is the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Program (SERCAP.)
While SERCAP has grown and the services we offer have expanded, our foundation remains the same: “Water is Life!” A community cannot exist without water. Water is an economic force that brings stability and allows for growth. Without water, many of the rural communities we serve would not survive. “It is the one thing that we all take for granted, but will miss when it is not easily accessible,” Hope said. At SERCAP, we believe that water brings life to everything it touches, and we will not stop until every individual has access to clean, safe drinking water.
This foundation informs all of our services. For example, we work to ensure communities & individuals have access to structurally sound housing. How does that relate to water? “Although we are building a safe, new home for our clients, the home would be useless without functional water and wastewater systems” said Hope. Clean water and stable housing are the first steps to community development, which directly impacts job growth, economic stability, and quality of life. This necessary infrastructure would not be possible for these rural communities without SERCAP support. Water is the foundation that holds our agency and connects us to the work that we are passionate about.
Even though we have grown over the last few decades, we will never forget the fundamental component that is tied to all of our services: water. Life cannot exist without it. At SERCAP, water is connected to all that we do for our rural communities.
It is important that communities know that the problems they are facing-- whether they are related to water, housing, or overall community development--are not too big or too complex for us to handle. We are here to help. We provide resources, support, and the means to initiate collaborative and solution-focused community conversations. To learn more about how we come alongside communities, visit our website.