TAP History

Total Action for Progress (TAP), originally known as Total Action Against Poverty, has a rich history dating back over 55 years. The agency was founded by Cabell Brand in 1965 soon after President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty and the landmark Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was signed into law.

Over the next five decades, TAP established itself as an innovative and successful community action agency, serving eleven localities with more than 25 programs.


In addition to becoming an incorporated non-profit, TAP launched the Head Start program, which was Roanoke’s first desegregated classrooms.

With the expansion of some of the community action programs in the 70s, TAP began Project Energy Save, Virginia’s first home weatherization program. TAP also led the way – in the state and the nation – launching the RADAR transportation project and creating Virginia CARES to address the high recidivism rate of ex-offenders.

TAP expanded its focus in the 80s to include programs to help youth increase their level of educational attainment and employment opportunities. In 1981, the first students were enrolled in Project Discovery, a program for first-generation college-bound students. Project Discovery later became a state-wide program. In 1987, TAP started a school-to-work transition program for at-risk students. TAP also opened the Transitional Living Center in 1988 to serve the area’s homeless. TAP also established what is now known as Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

TAP continued to strengthen its programs and set substantial milestones in the 90s, including completing the weatherization of its 5,000th home, serving more than 14,000 parolees in the Virginia CARES program, and successfully sending 80% of the kids enrolled in Project Discovery on to college. Also, in 1994, TAP created the Business SEED program to help entrepreneurs start their own businesses.

New programs were introduced, including some focused on job-training and certifications. In 2001, TAP started YouthBuild of Roanoke for at-risk youth to learn construction trades, as well as launching their Certified Nurse’s Aide program in 2009. Sabrina’s Place, a supervised visitation and safe exchange center was opening in 2007.

In order to address the changing and complex barriers of those in poverty, TAP formed the Veteran Services program in 2010 and a special Dental Health Initiative, or loan program to help recipients pay for substantial dental work when they cannot afford the costs upfront.