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Short History of the Cowan Community Action Group

The Cowan Community Action Group, Inc. (CCAG) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization and a proud sponsor of the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School. The organization began in 1964 when the Upper Cowan Elementary School, a three-room school, that held so many sentimental memories for the community was abandoned and consolidated into Cowan Elementary School. The community came together and organized in order to secure a lease from the local county Board of Education to use the abandoned school as a “community center’. The organization was successful in obtaining a lease and work began to renovate the school to become a community center, with plans also to add another large multi-purpose room to the old school. Excellent progress was made with these plans, and several programs were also introduced to the community; a garbage pick up service, that had never happened in the community before and accomplished through the use of a truck the organization bought and by willing volunteer men who gave their Saturdays to drive the truck and pick up the garbage. This service lasted until the time that Letcher County started a county-wide pick up service.

A licensed day care center, a community tractor, and a survey of community members interested in cable television which resulted in having a business establish the service, were a few of other programs that were offered. In the late 60s, a partnership was formed with the Save the Children Program that lasted until the mid 90’s. Through this partnership, the facility that serves as the center today was constructed, and numerous programs that provided after school services, summer day camps, and well structured youth development programs were offered. The center has seen hundreds of boys and girls come through its doors for a place where they could be with their friends in a safe, friendly, and educational setting. The Cowan Center has received numerous awards for the outstanding work they have done. In 2007-2008 they were the proud recipients of the Governor’s Folk Art Award for their work in promoting and helping to preserve the traditional mountain music of the area.

One of the saddest events of the center was the destruction of the old school house through a fire in 1971. As stated previously, the building plan for the future center was to have an octagonal shaped multi-purpose room added to the old school, which would have joined the old to the new. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be, but the community was persistent in its quest to have the most attractive and functional center possible so they continued with plans for its construction. Thanks largely to the support of the Save the Children Organization we have the wonderful facility that is present on the grounds today.

Of significance also is the fact that the Cowan Community has been able to purchase from the Board of Education the grounds on which it is constructed. So, the community is proud to say that both the center and the grounds are property of the Cowan Community. Of all the community centers in Letcher County, the Cowan Center is the only one owned by the community. The County Fiscal Court does provide assistance to the center, but the responsibility for its continuance rests with the Cowan Community.