In the early months of 1963, interested leaders in Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, and Union counties were making efforts to bring the benefits of the Economic Opportunity Act to southernmost Illinois where high rates of unemployment and economic depression were prevalent. A short time later, Congressman Kenneth Gray announced approval of the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington D.C. and the Shawnee Development Council was officially formed in 1965.
In the beginning there were only two employees, Edward Tyalor, Executive Director, and Betty Stout, Secretary/Bookkeeper. Officials in each county seat offered office space and large central office building located in Karnak was donated by the Century #100 School District. In February of 1966, several additional employees were hired and trained for outreach programs.
In 1967, when a community college district was formed, Shawnee Community College’s first administrative offices were housed in Shawnee Development Council’s Karnak office. The college president, Loren E. Klaus, and his secretary utilized the space and equipment for several months before their offices were relocated.
At that time, staff was involved in the Medicare Alert Program and went into the local communities enrolling people for Medicare. Shortly thereafter, funding was provided by the Department of Labor to administer the Neighborhood Youth Corp and Operations and The Public Service Employment Programs. Both programs served many low-income persons in a variety of ways.
In succeeding years, additional program applications were made and secured including Head Start, R.S.V.P., Senior Nutrition funds, Senior Companion, Weatherization, Residential Energy Assistance, Community Care, Transportation, CETA, J.T.P.A., and dozens of other extended and short-term community improvement and employment programs.
Pope and Hardin counties joined Shawnee Development Council, Inc. in 1982 when the State of Illinois determined that all counties in the state should be served by community action agencies.
On July 23, 2001, employees and board members enthusiastically walked from the old school building, which had been home to Shawnee Development Council, Inc. for 36 years, to the new modern office building located at 530 West Washington on the west side of Karnak.