Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Hampshire Community Action Commission Records
Hampshire Community Action Commission, Inc. (HCAC), a private, non-profit corporation, was founded in 1965 in Northampton, Massachusetts, as a response to Lyndon Johnson's Great Society aims and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which offered cities and towns grants to finance community action programs for eliminating poverty and assisting low income people. The 1964 Act stipulated that there be maximum participation by the low-income recipients in the program's administration.
The 1964 Act established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), a federal bureau which allocated monies and coordinated the programs with other governmental agencies. The OEO operated separate staffs for the Job Corps, VISTA, Head Start, and Community Action Programs. HCAC is a Community Action Program under this agency. In the 1970s the OEO ceased to exist, succeeded by the Communities Services Administration (CSA), which then became the federal bureau overseeing local Community Action Programs. Under federal auspices, there were also special programs, such as one for migrant workers. The federal agency also granted funds to existing agencies to administer programs funded by the 1964 Act. For example, work training programs were run by the Labor Department; rural antipoverty programs were under the Department of Agriculture.
The Hampshire Community Action Commission began in 1965-1966 with programs including day care centers, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Summer Head Start, and a drug addiction clinic at the jail. Soon they added a Legal Services program with neighborhood law offices primarily aimed at educating the poor in preventive law, and teaching them their legal rights and obligations. Another early program was the Foster Grandparent Program, which recruited low-income people over sixty to serve neglected and deprived children who had no close adult contacts.
With the 1970s and new presidential administrations, some funding sources were cut, while a few others appeared, causing the HCAC to drop some programs and to focus on new areas. Programs in after-school day care, family day care (where the child is taken care of in the home of the caregiver) and the energy/weatherization/fuel assistance programs are examples of newer HCAC programs.
A 1975 fact sheet stated the emphasis of HCAC: "To serve as an incubator for developing community-based and community supportive projects which will eventually stand on their own." Measured effectiveness was said to be not just by the provided services, but by the changes the program achieved in the attitude of the community toward the poor, and the refocusing of public and private resources for anti-poverty purposes it effected.