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Our Story

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First State was the first, and remains the only, Community Action Agency in the State of  Delaware.  Formed in 1965  as the Sussex County Community Action Agency by a group of concerned citizens, we have grown to encompass the entire State, offering a diverse array of programs that target the root causes of poverty.  Still going strong after 57 years!

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Bernice M. Edwards

Executive Director

Bernice Mitchell Edwards has over 40 years of experience in program management and administration in the non-profit and social service field.

Mrs. Edwards’ association with First State Community Action Agency, Inc. began over 40 years ago as a head start parent. Her professional career started with First State Community Action Agency, Inc. (formerly known as Sussex County Community Action) December 1, 1978, obtaining several positions beginning as a Neighborhood Youth Supervisor, Housing Counselor, Community Development Director, Deputy Director to her current position as Executive Director. In this position, Mrs. Edwards, administers over twenty-one (21) anti-poverty programs with an annual operating budget of nearly 10 million dollars. With 182 plus employees, Mrs. Edwards is strongly committed to the mission of First State Community Action Agency, Inc.

Mrs. Edwards presently serves on the Human Relations Commission, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Organization of Sussex County, Sunshine Circle Club, Georgetown-Millsboro Rotary Club, Sussex County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Delaware Access to Justice Coalition, Member of Board of Trustees of the Biggs Museum, Board of Sussex County Health Coalition, Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative (DRJC), Cape Henlopen Minority Advisory Committee.

Mrs. Edwards has an Associate Degree in Human Services, Delaware Technical and Community College, Bachelor of Science Degree of Behavioral Science, Wilmington University, University of Delaware, Completion of Community Development Certificate Course. Mrs. Edwards the widow of Willie James Edwards, Sr., and has two children – Christa and Willie, Jr., five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

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Dr. Anne Farley

Board President

Dr. Anne Farley has over 20 years of executive leadership experience in local, state and county governments.  Anne worked for three Governors, two County Executives and several Township Mayors. Throughout her career, she led state and county agencies, managed multi-million dollar operating and capital budgets, and worked with executive and legislative officials on the development and implementation of regulations, laws and strategic policy initiatives.

Anne’s experience with agencies spans labor, health and social services, workforce development and employment, community development and housing, parks, libraries and recreation.

In addition to serving as First State's Board President, she is also Co Chair of the United Way of Delaware’s Public Policy Committee, and a member of the St. Patrick’s Society that addresses poverty in the City of Wilmington.

Anne has a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in urban affairs and public policy from the University of Delaware. Her thesis focused on service delivery and how to infuse democratic values in the public sector. In 2009, Anne received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Academic Excellence and Public Service from the University of Delaware School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy

Board of Directors

A public Community Action Agency is required to have a tripartite board made up of three sectors: at least 1/3 representatives of the low-income people being served, 1/3 public officials or their designees, and the remainder from other major groups and interests in the community.  Here are our current Board members:

  • Public Sector

    • Susan Watson Holiday - 1st Vice President​

    • Eugene Dvornick, Jr. - 2nd Vice President

    • Carrie Casey - Secretary

    • Darren D. Blackston, MPA, Ed. D

    • Kain Johnson

    • Brandy Nauman

  • Private Sector​

    • Anne Farley, Ph.D, President​

    • Linda Price

    • Carolyn McNeice

    • Charlotte King

    • John "Jack" Young

    • James Johnson

    • Joanne Reilly

  • Consumer Sector​

    • Evelyn Wilson​

    • Tesha Miller

    • Troy Hazzard

    • Reyna Gil Ventura

    • Geraldine Thomas

    • Ronald Handy, Sr.

    • Edward Harrison

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