SMCAA celebrates Community Action Month

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — This year Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency commemorates 39 years of helping families throughout southwest Michigan.

SMCAA was established in 1982 “to wage war on poverty in Cass and Van Buren counties by promoting self-sufficiency for those of limited income, ensuring that all residents are able to live in dignity, implementing innovative and cost-effective programs to improve the lives and living conditions of the impoverished, providing support and instruction for everyone in need of assistance, and being a major voice of reason in establishing welfare system reforms,” officials said.

In 1992, Berrien County was officially added to its service delivery area. Since then, SMCAA has continued to help people and change lives throughout the tri-county region.

“The month of May is Community Action Month’ and SMCAA takes this time to honor and celebrate the impact community action has in the lives of families and communities across the country,” said SMCAA Executive Director Kim Smith Oldham. “Community action agencies are successful every day in helping families achieve economic security. Given that the needs of each family and community are unique, community A=action is able to use a range of resources and programs to meet local needs in creative and impactful ways.”

Community action agencies serve 99 percent of all American counties with services to help individuals and families achieve financial stability. The past year was no exception, even given the global pandemic outbreak.

“In 2020 alone, SMCAA served 4,956 individuals and 3,293 households across southwest Michigan with immediately needed services such as rent assistance, utility assistance, shelter and food, and also long-term solutions like homebuyer and financial education, emergency housing repairs, and energy-saving weatherization within homes,” said Operations Manager Ashley Slack.

In addition, the Agency offered monthly food product giveaways which has provided over 74,000 families with food since March 2020.

Despite experiencing budget cuts, shrinking resources, and increased demands for services during these challenging economic times, SMCAA has been remarkably successful assisting the low-income families and individuals of Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties to achieve and maintain economic security.

“Our staff is committed to the community we serve because it is right, it is wise, and, in our hearts and minds, we truly believe it is possible to conquer poverty,” Oldham said. “We are community action strong.”

 

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