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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 1982, 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.

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