History of Community Action

The History of Community Action dates back to the early 1960’s when President Kennedy announced the “War on Poverty.” Upon Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson ascended to the Presidency and carried on with the War on Poverty which he declared on January 8, 1964 during his first State of the Union Address.


Following this declaration, Johnson reached out to Sargent Shriver, the head of the American Peace Corps, to be the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and lead this war. The OEO oversees the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) which funds community action agencies across the nation. On August 20, 1964, Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act which began a multitude of programs designed to help economically disadvantaged people work toward self-sufficiency.


Many initiatives developed through the Economic Opportunity Act are still in place today, including community action agencies like SMCAA. In 1986, Community Action was incorporated into an agency in Southwest Michigan. SMCAA was founded to provide essential services, diversified programming, and community resources to improve conditions for the marginalized within Southwest Michigan. Today, SMCAA continues the journey spearheaded by President Johnson by administering federal, state and local contracts developed to respond to the needs of individuals and families residing in our regional service district.


As part of the Community Action Network, SMCAA shares a set of principles distinguished by the national network of CAAs in the fights against poverty:


  • Build local solutions specific to local needs

  • Support family stability as a foundation for economic security

  • Advocate for systemic change

  • Pursue positive individual, family and community level change

  • Maximize involvement of people with low incomes

  • Engage local community partners and citizens in solutions

  • Leverage state, federal, and community resources


SMCAA also strives to abide by The Promise of Community Action:


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.
Contact Information

185 E Main St, Ste 303

Benton Harbor, MI 49022

(269) 925-9077


Office Hours

Monday - Friday

8:00am to 4:30pm

Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency

SMCAA is dedicated to empowering diverse people in need and supporting their journey towards economic security.

Our vision: to be a beacon of support in a strong, thriving community by helping people and changing lives.

USDA Non-Discrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal Civil Rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Civil Rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior credible activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA (not all bases apply to all programs). Remedies and complaint filing deadlines vary by program or incident.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the responsible Agency or USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program discrimination complaint, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at How to File a Program Discrimination Complaint and at any USDA office or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: (1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; (2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or (3) email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

© 2019 Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency. All Rights Reserved. 

SMCAA is a private social service non-profit 501(c)(3) membership organization.