Community action agencies lend a hand to those in need

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Community action agencies (CAAs) help the 16.4 percent of Arizonans who live within the poverty level, usually only making $12,000 a year, by providing services to aid them in paying bills, buying food and doing their taxes.

“We offer what’s called a hand-up, not a hand-out,” Executive Director of CAAs Cynthia Zwick says. “A family member or a family who might be in a crisis due to something catastrophic… The poor handles it differently because they don’t have the means to move forward.”

Wayne Jackson is a CAA beneficiary, living and working at a residence for disabled adults in Chandler. He says he tries to keep himself moving and one of the ways to do that is by helping his friends who share his building.

“Everyone is going to do their best to pay or their electric bill to keep the lights on, but when you then have a choice between keeping the lights on and eating, that’s where things start to get tough,” Jackson says.

There are 14 CAAs spread out between all the counties of Arizona. They serve to a diverse crowd, many of them veterans and disabled adults who live on fixed pensions. They also offer financial planning assistance including budgeting and creating a savings account.

“During the summer months when they do fall behind, they come here, most of them are within the elderly population,” Eva Felix, director of MESAcan, says. “It’s really sad to know they’ve had their A/C at maybe 90 so their bill doesn’t skyrocket.”

CAAs also offer the opportunity for community members to do their taxes for free since they are partners with the IRS. They won’t have to pay $250 to $400 to get their taxes done, Zwick says.

For more information on CAAs, including where they are located around the state, visit

Cynthia Zwick: Executive Director of CAAs
Wayne Jackson: CAA Beneficiary
Eva Felix: Director of MESAcan

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