Central Missouri Community Action believes that true social change cannot happen without the involvement of the entire community. The CMCA Community Organizing strategy is an intentional community initiative designed to engage all aspects of the community to address local causes and conditions of poverty. Community Organizers work with community entities to ensure that all families are able to meet their basic needs as well as promote opportunities for lifelong learning.

What is Community Organizing?

  • Art of bringing people together on behalf of and/or in response to a common interest
  • Community organizing is used for relationship building and collaboration
  • It is designed to create power in and/for a community

Community Organizers provide learning opportunities to State and local authorities, local Chambers, economic development entities and others centered on the realities of poverty at the local level, needs of those living in poverty and the cost of poverty to individual communities. Through these educational presentations, community members are invited to participate with existing Community Action Team Projects (CATs) to develop, enhance and identify local solutions to the overall causes of poverty within a community.

CMCA Community Organizers

  • Audrain/Callaway County – Thomas A. (Tad) Dobyns
  • Boone County – Megan Corbin
  • Cole County – Sarah Smith
  • Cooper/Howard County – Evan Melkersman
  • Moniteau County – Stefani Thompson
  • Osage County – Martha Ray

CAT Project: Community Action Teams (CATs) are made up of local community members who are dedicated to addressing a local cause or condition of poverty. The CATs are designed to be as unique as the communities in which they are found are flexible enough in their work that local groups make take on the issue originally identified by the local CAT. Such issues have included transportation, community economic development, hunger/community gardens, and community involvement by low income individuals, health and back to school fairs. CATs are overseen by CMCA Community Organizers, but are run by CAT members.

Poverty Simulations are designed for those who have never experienced the realities of living in poverty. Through the three hour simulation process, participants are assigned a family member role to “play” as they attempt to meet their family’s basic needs for one month. The month is simulated by four (4) 15-minute weeks during which families must meet all of their financial obligations, gain or maintain employment, ensure that their children are fed, clothed, and educated, meet any emergency situations that may arise and attempt to navigate the web of social service entities that are designed to provide assistance to families in need.

Although the simulation has the feel of a game, the family scenarios used are based on Missouri families that have been served by Missouri Community Action Agencies. Only the names have changed. The resources, the strengths, the limitations and the needs of the families are all based on real life. In addition to family “roles”, community volunteers, usually individuals currently living in poverty, fill the roles of “community resources”. These resources include an employer, social services, a hospital clinic, a payday lending establishment, a pawn shop, a landlord, a utility company, a bank, a grocery store, a faith organization, a school, a community action agency, a law enforcement officer, and child care/Head Start.


PhotoVoice is a seven (7) week project designed to engage middle-school aged youth in learning skills to make change in their communities. Each youth participant is provided with a digital camera and instructed on photography skills. They are asked to utilize those skills to document the strengths and weaknesses of their communities through photographs and identify what changes they need within their communities that will provide them the opportunities to achieve their individual goals and dreams.

Each week a different theme: Basic Needs, Lifelong Learning, Nutrition, Advocacy/Rules, Social Changes and Influences, is discussed and the participants leave with the assignment of returning the next week with five (5) photographs that represent the theme that was discussed. Throughout these weekly “classes”, participants also learn key skills including public speaking, advocacy, relationship building and conflict resolution. At the conclusion of the seven (7) weeks, CMCA staff makes arrangements for public displays and presentations of the photographs to be made by the participants. Such presentations may be made to public school Boards, City Council, County Commissioners, civic groups, neighborhood associations and others.