Eastern Nebraska Community Action Project (ENCAP), formerly Greater Omaha Community Action (GOCA), has been serving Eastern Nebraska since 1965. As the area’s first and only Community Action Agency, GOCA was established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which authorized the formation of local Community Action Agencies as part of the War on Poverty.
GOCA/ENCAP has been housed throughout North Omaha in various locations, including:
1723 Vinton Street: Home to GOCA in the early 1960s, this location was once a grocery store, a shoe repair shop, and later a VFW and finally as Vinton Street Antiques.
2216 N. 24th Street: For a time GOCA was adjacent to the historic Omaha Star. This building was a social hall and also a mortuary.
2213 Lake Street: This location was originally the Webster Telephone Exchange building. The building was designed by Thomas Kimball, a well-known architect at the time. GOCA was headquartered here for a time. Later the building was purchased for use as a museum dedicated to the history of African Americans, then finally the Great Plains Black History Museum.
2417 Grant Street: GOCA shared space with the Bryant Cage Center in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Center housed a Head Start program, boxing club for youth, basketball courts, playground, and a senior center.
2406 Fowler Street: The current location was previously a nursing home and has been the home of ENCAP since the 1990s.
These addresses are in the heart North Omaha and gave GOCA a place in the history of the Omaha civil rights riots of the 1960s.
In 1966, the first civil rights-era riot in North Omaha ravaged the community. More major riots plagued the community in 1967, ’68 and ’69, with smaller actions happening all three years. This was the summer A Time For Burning was filmed in Omaha.
During this time, GOCA also worked with the Young Democrat organizations at Mercy and Ryan High Schools, even bringing in Wisconsin Senator Eugene McCarthy as a guest speaker.
During his campaign for President, George Wallace stopped in Omaha in March of 1968 to make a speech at the Civic Auditorium. That night a group of high school and college students protested outside the Civic. Counter protestors arrived and a number of people were injured in the melee. In addition to protestor injuries, an African American teen was shot and killed, leading to charges of police brutality. The fleeing protesters damaged cars and businesses. The next day there was a near riot at Horace Mann Junior High until Ernie Chambers visited the students and calmed them down.
In 1969, 14-year-old Vivian Strong was shot in the back by an Omaha police officer. Riots again erupted.
That same year, according to the Star: “Omaha’s Black Panther chapter stationed armed guards outside the office of Greater Omaha Community Action which stayed open as a sanctuary for residents from the violence as groups of youth swarmed through the area throwing bottles at police and expressing their outrage at Vivian’s death. Groups including the Panthers stood guard outside the offices of the Omaha Star building at 24th and Lake in order to prevent damage to the building, as well as to the historic churches in the neighborhood.”
In 1970, Lt. Col. Charles Lane , a member of Tuskegee Airmen and a CAP Squadron Commander, became a GOCA staff member. He served as executive director until his retirement in 1992. Throughout his tenure, Lane led many active community programs that address the effects of poverty on children, the aging, and individuals with disabilities, alcoholism, and mental health, to name only a few.
In July 24, 2007, GOCA changed its name to align with the brand of the National Community Action Partnership and to recognize its service to both Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
Know North Omaha History, by Adam Fletcher Sasse, https://northomahahistory.com/
Nebraska’s Tuskegee Airmen