Community Action of Allegan County staff members help sort supplies that will be distributed to families and individuals throughout the county. CAAC has seen an increased demand for its services due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo provided)

Community Action celebrates 55 years amid dire needs of COVID-19 crisis

By: 
Jason Wesseldyk, Sports Editor

This year marks the 55th anniversary for Community Action of Allegan County, an organization that pro-vides services to families and individuals facing challenges associated with poverty.

And never has the need for CAAC’s services been more apparent than during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The local impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant,” CAAC executive director Lisa Evans said. “Our staff has been and continues to be deployed throughout the community to provide services and supports to our community’s most vulnerable populations. Thousands of individuals and families in our community are currently facing serious hardship due to the economic declines brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now more than ever, CAAC is committed to advancing its mission: to serve, advocate, and engage individuals, families and com-munities to overcome the effects of poverty and encourage self-reliance.”

CAAC is one of more than 1,000 agencies throughout the country that comprise the Community Action Network. May is Community Action Month.

“Each May we reflect on the impact Community Action and our network has had on families,” Evans said. “This May is not only significant because of our (55th) anniversary, but also with the stay at home order and the economy at a standstill, ensuring everyone in Allegan County can safely access basic needs is needed now more than ever.”

Those basic needs include food, utilities and housing assistance.

Other services CAAC continues to provide include wellness calls to seniors, mental health support and early education services along with formula, wipes and diapers for babies.

With unemployment rising and more families and individuals facing financial un-certainty given the COVID-19 pandemic, CAAC is seeking the community’s help.

“Flexible, unrestricted funding is needed now more than ever to meet emerging and evolving community needs brought on by the COVID-19 crisis,” Evans said. “CAAC encourages community members to donate unrestricted funds to support the wide portfolio of programs and services pro-vided by our organization.”

Donations can be made online at CommunityAc-tionAllegan.org or checks may be mailed to: Community Action of Allegan County, 323 Water St., Allegan, MI 49010.

Those interested in provided donated goods can visit CAAC’s website and click on the “Wish List” icon. A list of our needed items may also be found by visiting FeedtheNeedAllegan.com.

Donated items such as food and personal hygiene items should be boxed and dropped off at the Allegan County Goods Distribution Center at 650 Grand St. in Allegan.

“The number of struggling families in our community is anticipated to rise as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” Evans said. “As we move forward, and the community faces questions of economic recovery CAAC hopes we can collectively ask our-selves a few questions:

“What does it take to move an individual or family to a place of economic stability and security? And what does it take to create and build adequate social and financial capital to get families back up on their feet when life knocks them down?”

CAAC, originally known as Allegan County Resource Development Committee before rebranding itself in 2013, was authorized as a Community Action Agency in 1965. The agency was born out of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” initiative in 1964, which paved the way for the Economic Equality Act. The EEA sought to “fight poverty by empowering local com-munities, to create and implement programs to address the needs of low-income individuals and families.”

The Community Services Block Grant is the agencies' core federal funding, with CAAC operating a variety of grants that come from federal, state and local sources. CAAC’s grants vary widely and include funds to operate the community’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Other locally administered programs include the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, utility grants and Weatherization Assistance Program funded through the U.S. Department of Energy.

CAAC operates under the governing of a board of di-rectors at least one-third low-income community members, one-third public officials and one-third private sector leaders.

“At Community Action, we believe it takes all of us—the entire community—working together with shared vision and purpose,” Evans said. “With community support, CAAC will continue through this (COVID-19) crisis, continuing to advocate for low-income families at the local, state and federal levels.

“We will continue to effectively allocate resources, seek collaboration, invest in staff capacity and leverage local, state and national expertise to deliver client centered services to help families achieve stability in an unstable time.”

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