The Opportunity Council is a private, non-profit Community Action Agency serving homeless and low-income families and individuals. Our mission is to help people improve their lives through education, support, and direct assistance while advocating for just and equitable communities.

For 50 years we have offered a broad scope of services that range from addressing immediate and crisis-oriented needs (food, emergency shelter, eviction-prevention) to longer-term programs that promote self-sufficiency in our community (early childhood education, home weatherization).

What is Community Action?

Acting as leaders in organizing whatever is needed to build stronger communities, Community Action-based programs work with partners in our communities to address local emerging needs.

Community Action changes people’s lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities, and makes America a better place to live. We care about the entire community, and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.

Check out the following web sites for more information about Community Action Agencies

Washington Community Action Partnership
National Community Action Partnership
National Community Action Foundation


In 1965, the Opportunity Council began as a grassroots group of volunteers and staff, working with a borrowed typewriter and furniture out of a small corner in the Whatcom County Courthouse. This Community Action model was a product of the Economic Opportunity Act signed by President Lynden B. Johnson in 1964 to help low income people.

This radical new model allowed local groups, including people with low-income, to determine the best local use of federal block grant dollars. People were charged with creating local solutions to fight poverty in their own communities.

Today, the Opportunity Council continues to be a vital Community Action Agency, one of 1,000 Community Action Agencies nationwide. Our 275 full- and part-time employees serve over 18,000 people a year.

Our Staff

Approximately 275 employees work at the Opportunity Council to bring services to people in Whatcom, Island and San Juan Counties. Some programs also have expanded with staff in Skagit and Snohomish counties.

Executive Director: Greg Winter
Associate Director: Sheri Burgler Emerson

Department Directors

Community Services and Energy Services: Debbie Paton
Early Learning and Family Services: David Webster
Housing Development: Open
Island County Opportunity Council: Lisa Clark
Home Improvement: Ross Quigley
Whatcom Homeless Service Center: Mike Parker
The Energy Project: Shawn Collins

Administrative Staff

Fiscal: David Foreman, Chief Financial Officer
Human Resources: Open

Our Board of Directors

Citizen participation is essential. The Opportunity Council, like all Community Action Agencies, is locally managed by a volunteer board of directors which includes equal representation of public officials, the private sector and people who are low-income.

  • President: Steve Jones
  • Vice-President: Rick Hughes
  • Secretary: Rebecca Boonstra
  • Treasurer: Paul Stermer
  • At Large: Mark Tompkins
  • ELAFS Policy Council Rep: Sara Hutchinson
  • Past President: Mamie Lackie
  • Thomas Boucher
  • Barry Buchanan
  • Christianna Clinton
  • Ozell Jackson
  • Sandy John
  • Ramona Menish
  • Katrice Rodriguez
  • Hannah Stone

Board meeting dates are published on our news & events page

News & Events Page