President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Poverty Bill also known as "The Economic Opportunity Act" . The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, created the Community Action Program from Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and Job Corps. This Act, which became the centerpiece of the President’s "War On Poverty" initiative was signed into law August 20, 1964. Community Action in Mississippi was born out of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.
The Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) was an act to mobilize the human and financial resources of the nation to combat poverty in the United States. The purpose of EOA was to: (1) eliminate poverty, (2) expand educational opportunity, (3) increase the safety net for the poor and unemployed and (4) to attend to the health and financial needs of the elderly,’’ as presented by Dr. Lamar Braxton, Sr., CEO Emeritus of AJFC ( Community Action in Natchez, MS) at the 2014 CSBG Implementation Workshop in Biloxi, Mississippi. Mr. Braxton was one of several long-time activists and trailblazers for Community Action in Mississippi.
Community Action began locally in Lauderdale County in 1967 as the Lauderdale Economic Assistance Program (LEAP) with a nine member board of directors. Gradually, as poverty and the need for assistance in surrounding counties became more evident, LEAP expanded its services into Clarke, Jasper, Kemper, Newton and Wayne Counties, fully incorporating these counties in 1978 as the Multi-County Community Service Agency, Inc. (MCCSA). In the mid-1990s, MCCSA further expanded its services into deserving community of Neshoba, Scott and Smith Counties. Today, MCCSA serves nine counties, all with full board representation as required by the founding act.
MCCSA has made its mark in the community both socially and economically through the creation of employment, health and educational opportunities for literally thousands of individuals over the years by improving the conditions in which people live. One of its earliest economic ventures in the mid-1970s was the establishment of the Lauderdale County Federal Credit Union (now 1st Mississippi Federal Credit Union) in an effort to bring lending opportunities to impoverished communities who were denied traditional loans with local banks. Over the years this economic venture became self-sustaining and today is one of the most viable credit unions in the state with millions in assets and thousands of members.