Observing 39 Years of Community Action Service

Observing 39 Years of Community Action Service to

Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Community


On August 20, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, effectively creating a variety of programs to take arms in his “War of Poverty.” This Act established the Community Action Network to help American families and communities overcome obstacles to poverty. Over 1000 agencies across the country are working every day to create opportunities and transform the lives of their neighbors making communities stronger and helping families across the US thrive. This year Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency (SMCAA) commemorates 39 years 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. 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’s 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 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% of all American counties with life-changing services to help individuals and families achieve financial stability. The past year was no exception, even given the global pandemic outbreak. Operations Manager, Ashley Slack, commented, “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.” 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, SMCAAhas been remarkably successful assisting the low-income families and individuals of Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties to achieve and maintain economic security. As Kim Smith Oldhamattests, “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. We are Community Action Strong.”




The Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency (SMCAA) is a private, non-profit Community Action Agency - part of a state and national network. In 1982, the agency started servicing Van Buren County.  In 1986, our agency was incorporated and began providing human services to Cass and Van Buren Counties.  In 1992, Berrien County was officially added to its service delivery area.

SMCAA brings together federal and state grants funds as well as dollars from local, private, and public sources. These resources are then directed into programs which aid the low income and otherwise disadvantaged throughout the age spectrum, from preschoolers to the elderly of southwestern Michigan. The funds include dollars which are targeted at very specific problems, as well as dollars which are more flexible in nature. 

​SMCAA is dedicated to empowering diverse people in need and supporting their journey towards economic security. Our Vision is to be a beacon of support in a strong, thriving community by helping people and changing lives.

In order to accomplish our mission and reach our vision, SMCAA establishes, coordinates, and carries out programs to promote the health, education, and welfare of low-income individuals and families across the tri-county area. Learn more about SMCAA at www.smcaa.com

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