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Mission & History

Who We Are

Tempe Community Action Agency (TCAA) improves the quality of life for our community by helping people alleviate 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. For more than 55 years, we have capably addressed the causes and effects of poverty in Tempe and surrounding communities. We support people and families to overcome adversity and live their best lives. Our founders made a commitment to empower people through dynamic programs that meet emergent needs while fostering dignity and self-reliance. TCAA has upheld this commitment for over a half-century and has evolved into Tempe’s largest social service agency. We continue to be innovative and entrepreneurial, shaping our programs and services in response to varying community conditions.


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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