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Mission & History

Who We Are

Tempe Community Action Agency (TCAA) improves the quality of life for the people we serve by helping them to alleviate a crisis and transition to greater economic independence.

TCAA's mission is to foster dignity and self reliance for the economically vulnerable in the communities we serve. We help seniors, adults, and families struggling to provide for their most basic needs and working to attain their highest level of independence. Acting with financial and volunteer support from the community we serve, TCAA works not only to address the effects of poverty, but also the causes.  We operate Tempe's largest food pantry, three senior centers, aging programs, Home-Delivered Meal program, emergency rent and utility assistance, Tempe's sole emergency shelter--the Tempe Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program (I-HELP), pre- and post-natal services, two community gardens,  Economic Advancement program, and other projects and programs that serve our most vulnerable residents.  Our capacity to bring about positive change at all life stages impacts over 22,000 unduplicated seniors, adults, children, and infants each year--the equivalent of one in eight Tempe residents.


In 1966, two community-minded women, Lupe Esquer and Barbara Norton saw a need in Tempe and started “Operation Grassroots”.  Early programs included a food buying co-op, tortilla factory, neighborhood credit union, post office and community garden.  Since incorporating as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 1971, TCAA has remained the community’s primary social service organization serving elderly and low income residents. The agency is governed by an Executive Director and a volunteer Board of Directors. TCAA is supported by private contributors as well as grants and contracts from sources such as Maricopa County Human Services Department, Area Agency on Aging Region One, the cities of Tempe and Scottsdale, Valley of the Sun United Way, Arizona Department of Health Services, foundations, corporations, and private citizens. Our small professional staff is assisted by over 1600 community volunteers.

Why We Are Needed

  • At any given point in time, more than 1,100 adults and children from Tempe are homeless (City of Tempe)
  • 1 in 6 Maricopa County seniors experiences food insecurity (America’s Health Rankings 2018)
  • 1 in 4 children in Tempe are living in poverty (U.S. Census)
  • 73% of students in Tempe Elementary Schools qualifies for free and reduced price meals (AZ Department of Education, 2017)
  • In Tempe zip code 85281, home to one-third of the city's population, 38.9% of residents are living in poverty. This rate increases to an astonishing 57.5% of single mother households with children living in 85281. Citywide, the poverty rate is 21.6% (U.S. Census).

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