For over 40 years Community Action House has been helping end poverty and promoting community through individual empowerment. In 1969 a small group of concerned Hispanic residents led by Lupita Reyes visited a number of local churches advocating on behalf of migrant workers and others for help with unaddressed basic needs. Although the church groups were sympathetic to the plight, they just did not know where to begin. When David Myers, Hope College Psychology professor asked Lu to come to his church, he promised that something would be done. A group of representatives from churches and American Association of University Women met with Lu. The meeting resulted in the formation of Community Action House.
Migrant Workers and Emergency Services 1969 – 1986
Community Action House has been helping end poverty and promoting community through individual empowerment since its conception. From the beginning families from all ethnic backgrounds came, requesting help. Through their stories CAH learned that providing food and clothing was just part of the solution. Finding adequate housing was a major issue and CAH began helping families secure safe and affordable housing. In doing so CAH learned that some of the rental property in our community was in poor condition and did not meet local housing code requirements. This led CAH to take a lead role for the advocacy and the creation of the rental inspection program in the City of Holland. Today all rental property in the city is inspected ensuring a safe physical living environment for families and sound rental housing in our community.
Local Residents and Case Management 1987 - 1992
In the early1980’s the growing needs of local residents continued to become more apparent and Community Action House expanded its programming to become one of the first local agencies to offer case management services. In short we weren’t satisfied by just providing for immediate needs, we wanted to help our neighbors understand the root causes of poverty and equip them with the tools and support their efforts in making long-term change. Programming consisted of emergency services, case management, life skills, and helping families find stable housing.
Collaboration and Prosperity 1993 - 1994
Still not satisfied, CAH continued to explore ways to better serve families in need by collaborating with other agencies. After a discussion in 1992 with Western Theological Seminary (WTS) the need for a community soup kitchen was identified. Today the program is nationally recognized as an example of how faith-based and community-based organizations can successfully work together. The kitchen, located at WTS and staffed by CAH provides 51,000 free lunches annually to elderly residents on fixed incomes, single men with addiction problems, single mothers with children and low income families and individuals.
An Entrepreneurial Approach 1994 - 1996
Utilizing more of an entrepreneurial approach, CAH continued to explore ways to collaborate with other community resource organizations. The Community Housing Partnership, a collaborative with Good Samaritan Ministries and area churches, was started in 1994. The program offers families transitional housing while they participate in our case management program. Good Samaritan Ministries trains church teams that support and walk along side of the families while CAH case managers help families set goals and coordinate services. The program received national recognition for effective community collaboration in 2005 from the Faith and Service Technical, Educational Network (FASTEN).
The MRC & Educational Services 1997 - 2006
It’s often been said that local agencies should work together more. CAH took that mantra in 1997 as a charge that compelled us to take the lead role in the development of the Macatawa Resource Center (MRC) located in Holland Township. Today CAH programming is embedded among thirteen agencies that provide an array of services including advocacy for children and adults with developmental disabilities, health information services, 12 step programs, senior commodities, community gardening, neighborhood watch programs and three church plants. The MRC is 14 years old and the first of three such centers developed in our community.
Although helping to empower families to break the cycle of poverty in order to achieve self-sufficiency is a good mission, it is, however, incomplete. We want to help families and individual go a step further and be prosperous members of our community. CAH is doing this by teaching classes focusing on the financial literacy and the purchase process involved with buying a home. Over 100 families have become home owners since the start of the program.
2007 and Beyond
Still not satisfied, CAH continues to look for ways to end poverty and promote community through individual empowerment. Therefore, CAH has contracted with Michigan Works to provide clients on-site access to Michigan Works’ state-wide job search network. CAH has also taken on oversight responsibilities for the Ottawa Area Housing Coalition, based on a national movement that is aiming to provide adequate housing for every person in the U.S within the next 10 years. We are also exploring more efficient ways to collaborate with our community partners by sharing information through web-based networking. This type of collaboration will not only allow us to effectively service an ever-changing community, it will streamline the process of attaining help and resources for clients. To further benefit our clients, we are committed to continuously improving upon, and evaluating the effectiveness of, the resources we offer.
In 2010, Community Action House was awarded a Human Relations Social Justice Award for our Foreclosure Prevention Program.
"The Housing award went to the Community Action House Foreclosure Prevention Program for their efforts to address the foreclosure crisis by assisting homeowners to understand the foreclosure process and assist homeowners to save their homes. Housing Case Managers meet with families to provide budget counseling and assist them to negotiate with mortgage companies and to arrange loan modifications to avoid foreclosure."
After the Great Recession eased in 2011, CAH expanded its resale operations and open the General Store. The General Store is located at 694 Michigan Avenue in the former 11,000 Sq. Ft. Town & Country Grocery Store. CAH started its resale operation in 1998 in a 450 square foot store located in the Macatawa Resource Center. CAH’s resale objective is to generate new revenue to help stabilize private and government funding sources.
Also as a result of the Great Recession, CAH began to explore better ways to end poverty. Through conversations with clients CAH learned that many of them were lacking financial skills. As a result CAH contracting with Hope College’s Center For Faithful Living to conduct research to determine the level of knowledge that Holland Public Schools elementary students have regarding financial literacy. The hypothesis guiding the research is: If all students acquire a sound personal financial education starting in elementary school they will be better prepared to make financial decision as adults. If the research indicates there is a need for students to increase their level of knowledge of financial literacy then an activity base curriculum will be developed and tested during the 2011/12 school year. If successful the curriculum will be made available for other school districts.