Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency earns national award in New York City

Published 11:32 am Wednesday, September 7, 2022

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SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — The National Community Action Partnership recognized the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency with the Promise in Action Award at a gala in NYC on September 1, 2022.

SMCAA is a private, nonprofit organization that has served Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties since 1982. A little known fact: SMCAA is part of a national network of over 1,000 Community Action agencies. Once a year all these agencies come together for a National Convention hosted by the National Community Action Partnership.

Last week, NCAP’s National Convention took place in the heart of New York City. The convention is designed to provide agency professionals and board members the latest policy and programmatic updates as well as management and governance tools. Special emphasis is placed on effective strategies for transforming communities and changing the lives of Community Action clients. The week’s events came to a close with an Awards Gala, which placed SMCAA in the spotlight for a couple of minutes.

At the gala, SMCAA was awarded the Promise in Action Award. This award recognizes Community Action agencies that have been diligently caring for the entire community and remain dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other amidst catastrophe. These agencies work to build resilient communities that are not only more sustainable, but also transformative and just. 

“NCAP believes SMCAA is the personification of this award,” stated Denise Harlow, Chief Executive Officer of NCAP. “SMCAA has been an integral part of the Southwest Michigan community’s continued grow and success over the past 40 years. Prior to 2020, they serviced about 5,000 individuals, but in 2022 have serviced over 7,100. All of this work is done by a variety of programs and through the hard work and dedication of under 25 employees. Some of their services include emergency utility assistance, rent or mortgage assistance, food commodities and pantries, a family homeless shelter, supportive housing, and weatherization and housing rehabilitation.”

Harlow continued to read key factors mentioned by SMCAA’s nominator that earned the Agency this award. 

“In February 2018, SMCAA was the first agency onsite of the Berrien Springs’ River Springs Estates following a devastating flood. Due to a failed dam and crested river, 32 homes were destroyed, 60 homes needed repair, and over 200 individuals were evacuated, the majority of whom were low-income families. SMCAA set up a temporary office out of the park manager’s dining room to assist residents with relocation, food products, utility assistance, and home repairs.”