SERCAP: From TAP Pilot Program to Helping Provide Safe Water Across Seven States

Southeast Rural Community Action Project (SERCAP) started as a TAP pilot program, the Virginia Water Project, to provide safe drinking water to Roanoke Valley residents. The program proved so successful that it spun off into its own organization in 1969. Today, SERCAP serves over one million households across seven states. They provide safe water, sanitary water disposal, and structurally sound housing. 

“In 1966 there were 278,000 families in Virginia with no indoor plumbing and no running water on the property,” explained the late Cabell Brand, founder of TAP and the creator of what ultimately became SERCAP. This expanded to the larger RCAP network, serving the entire United States with community development projects. His comments are captured in a video production by SERCAP. “So, we started a demonstration water project and got a grant from the Ford Foundation to test this idea. And what we found out was when you brought water to people, economic development started. People started putting roads in, and infrastructure, and people started building houses. So, this caught on with the State legislature, and our demonstration water project eventually became the Virginia Water Project, and the Virginia Water Project then became the National Water Project.”

“We are an organization that holds the hands of small rural communities that often tend to feel like they are left behind,” explains Hope F. Cupit, President & CEO of SERCAP. “We work with communities for the long term, over 30-40 years, to get them to where they need to be.” This includes providing support for economic development, job creation, and infrastructure. “We find ourselves working with many community-based projects, rather than individuals.”

Born and raised in Roanoke, Hope has both professional and personal ties to TAP. “My first introduction to TAP as a child that I recall is being at the Head Start center.” This was located at the YMCA in Gainsboro. “That’s where we all went. Had great memories there. The teachers were great to us. We felt nurtured.”

Hope’s a community success story herself. She was one of the first participants in Project Discovery. TAP took her to visit colleges and helped pay for entrance exam fees. She received an accounting degree from James Madison University, then became a licensed CPA. Hope later earned a master’s degree. She is now an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Virginia Western Community College. Two of her three children have gone on to earn college degrees.

Hope joined SERCAP in 2007 as the comptroller and became CEO two years later. “I finally got to meet the man who made this all possible and that was Cabell Brand,” she says. “That was the man who provided the necessary support to a group of folks who he did not have to help because he was already a self-made millionaire. He gave back to people who were less fortunate and he didn’t have to. I can’t thank him and his family enough.”

“This has come back full circle,” Hope explains. “I came back home to Roanoke working very closely with the Agency who gave me the support to get to where I am today. I want to make sure I’m in a position to give back to others because of the situation I found myself in years ago.”

This year, SERCAP became a TAP Corporate Investor.