Continuing the Fight against Poverty:

Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc.

This year, Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc. is celebrating 55 years of Community Action. In January, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a "War on Poverty." For the last 53 years, Douglas-Cherokee has helped low-income families and individuals achieve personal, economic and social stability.

On February 16, 1965 the Charter of Incorporation of Morristown-Hamblen County Economic Opportunity Authority was filed with the State of Tennessee.

The Agency first opened its doors in the Morristown City Hall in March, 1965 under the name Morristown-Hamblen County Economic Opportunity Authority. Mrs. J.A. Hill (Rose), along with the City Administrator at the time, began the War on Poverty in Hamblen County by creating a single county Community Action Agency. In October 1966, the service was extended to Cocke, Jefferson, and Sevier Counties and the name became Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc. In 1974, the State of Tennessee began an effort to reduce the number of Community Action Agencies in the State. At that time, Grainger, Blount, and Monroe Counties became a part of Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc. Blount County decided to be a single county in 1975. However, Douglas-Cherokee continued to operate the Head Start program in Blount County and at a later date brought Union County into the Agency's Head Start program. The vision and leadership of Mrs. Rose Hill established the means to help literally thousands of low-income individuals in our area.

















DCEA offered a wide range of programs from job placement to family financial counseling. Most of its services were and still are geared to the family as a whole, providing assistance in raising and improving their quality of living. The services provided by DCEA are free to the participant. The entire focus of the agency is to help people help themselves. The Community Action Agency helps people who are in need of assistance or services that they are not able to provide for themselves.

One of the original programs of DCEA is Head Start. DCEA Head Start/Early Head Start began serving 3 and 4 year old children and their families in the summer of 1965. Comprehensive child development services continue to be provided to low-income children and their families with a focus on assisting preschoolers to develop the social, early literacy and math skills they need to be successful in school. Parent engagement is also an important aspect of the program. Currently, 986 preschool children are served in 52 classrooms located in Blount, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Monroe, Sevier, and Union Counties. 

In 2003, the program began serving pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. 72 Early Head Start slots are available in Hamblen County only.  Early Head Start provides early, continuous intensive, and comprehensive child development and family support services to low-income infants and toddlers and their families, and pregnant women and their families.

Head Start is built upon the understanding that the development of young children is deeply influenced by the family, by their community, by their health, as well as the educational experiences to which they are exposed. 

DCEA's Neighborhood Service Centers (NSC's) are also one of the first programs to be provided by Douglas-Cherokee fifty years ago. The CSBG funding that DCEA receives through the TN Department of Human Services is now focusing on assisting qualified households with not just emergency services, as it has typically provided in the past, but is now focusing more on the family as a whole in the effort to assist those households with employment, education, income management, and/or their current housing situation. The effort made by the family, with a bit of assistance from DCEA, will hopefully better their chances of moving their household out of poverty in a more expedient manner. The Neighborhood Service Centers also provide emergency assistance to households in need with emergency and crisis situations, along with other specific household services. Low-income households (at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines) are in constant need of assistance with emergency and crisis situations. Vouchers are issued  to vendors for utilities, rent/mortgage, medical assistance, food, gasoline for transportation to new job, purchasing of uniforms/clothing for new job, minor repairs to homes and other needed services. The NSC staff also distribute USDA Surplus Commodity Food quarterly.



Another integral program of the Agency, the Senior Nutrition Program, has been part of DCEA programming for over 40 years. The Senior Nutrition Program, otherwise known as Meals-on-Wheels, addresses food insecurity among seniors and people with disabilities in six rural eastern Tennessee counties (Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Monroe, and Sevier). Participants in the program receive home-delivered meals five days per week, in addition to being checked up on in regards to health and overall well-being. In many instances, the daily contact that the delivery drivers have with participants has meant the difference between whether or not an individual can or can't continue to remain independently in their own home. Congregate meals served at community sites allow seniors who are mobile to enjoy socializing with others while benefiting from nutritious meals. 

Started in 1984 with just four properties, Douglas-Cherokee's Affordable Housing has grown to include sixty HUD, Tennessee Housing Development Agency, and Rural Development subsidized housing complexes, with the newest opened in late 2014. the mission of Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority's Affordable Housing program is one of service. Program Director, Anna Mendoza and her staff strive to provide safe, comfortable, and affordable housing to low-income senior citizens and families in East and Middle Tennessee. One of Affordable Housing's greatest attributes is affordability. Because a major of the properties are governmental subsidized, rent is based on income and many complexes offer furnished utilities. This enables the program to provide housing that does not leave residents choosing between paying bills and buying groceries. As the program continues to grow and evolve, the mission of Affordable Housing is to provide adequate affordable housing residents can be proud to call home. 

Upward Bound is a direct result of the Higher Education Act of 1965 started by President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. It is monitored and funded by the United States Department of Education and is sponsored by Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc. This program is designed to help first-generation and low-income high school students meet their goals to graduate from college. Upward Bound is part of the federal (TRiO) family of federal outreach programs. The Federal TRiO programs are outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRiO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post baccalaureate programs. DCEA currently sponsors two Upward Bound programs. Appalachian Upward Bound I serves Morgan and Scott Counties, while Appalachian Upward Bound II serves Grainger and Hawkins Counties. Together, the programs serve 150 area high school students annually in a very intensive outreach program. To qualify, a student must meet family income guidelines, be a first generation college student, or show academic need. DCEA has sponsored Upward Bound for nearly twenty years. 

Another TRiO program, Educational Talent Search (ETS) recently turned 50 nationwide. However, it has only been a part of Douglas-Cherokee for 27 years. During those 27 years, the five counties hosing the program- Campbell, Claiborne, Scott in TN and Bell and Harlan in KY- have seen numerous students complete college, which is the program's primary purpose. The ETS program at DCEA provides services including: Career Exploration, ACT Preparation, goal setting, leadership skills, study skills, college exploration and planning, financial literacy and assistance with FAFSA Financial Aid and College Admissions applications, campus visits to local colleges and universities and a summer college and cultural enrichment program. All services are provided for FREE. All the Education Advisors work within the high schools in their respective county in office space donated by the school systems served. The program serves approximately 800 students each year in grades 7-12 within the five counties served. 

The third TRiO program offered by Douglas-Cherokee is the Educational Opportunity Center Program. This program provides assistance with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), college/vocational school admissions, financial literacy information, scholarship search, career guidance and test preparation. The goal of the program is to increase the number of adult participants who enroll in postsecondary education whether in college or a vocational school. Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority's Educational Opportunity Center has been in existence since 2002 and currently serves 1,000 adults in Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Hancock, Jefferson, and Monroe Counties each year.













The Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc. Education Center, formed in 2003, operates programs funded by local, state, and federal government entities to provide education, social services, and health based programs throughout East Tennessee. Current programs operated through the Education Center include; 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Lottery for Education: Afterschool Programs, and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. These programs served approximately 1600 students during the 2013-2014 school year.

The Hamblen County Workforce Development and Education Partnership is funded by five entities and a local grant from Alcoa Howmet. The entities are Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc., Hamblen County Government, Morristown City Government, Hamblen County Board of Education, and Morristown Chamber of Commerce. The program has facilitated a Teacher Externship program which allowed 36 teachers to participate in a yearlong program educating them on the soft and hard skills needed for industry including allowing them to work for one full week in one of the manufacturing facilities. Other activities include resume presentations conducted at the high school level for over 300 students; donation of workforce development books suggested by the Department of Labor to all the Pre-K classes in the Hamblen County School System; participating in the Junior Achievement BizTown program which is a workplace simulation for 5th graders; coordinating industry tours for high school classes; and helping the community with workforce related events and activities including recruiting of TN scholars and mentors. 

 The Community Connect Program provides opportunities for residents to volunteer in their communities. Community Connect offers telephone reassurance and/or transportation services to home-bound seniors. Telephone reassurance is designed to enhance aging in place, reduce social isolation and promote healthy futures. Volunteers will call home-bound seniors 2 or 3 times a week. Phone calls will be made to check on their well-being, give reminders for anything needed and report any concerns they have to the Community Connect staff. Transporting home-bound seniors is another service provided by Community Connect. Volunteers will transport home-bound seniors to medical, dental, and other health related services, plus pick up medication and assist with grocery shopping. The volunteer will also stay with them until their appointments have been completed. 

One of the Agency's greatest achievements is the ability to evolve along with the economic issues that directly affect low-income individuals and families. From the original programs experienced in fighting the War on Poverty to the newer programs adapted to help with the current challenges faces families, it is evident Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc.'s mission will continue to be successful. The Agency receives additional funding from United Way, the East TN Foundation and EFSP. 

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Agency Information

​Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc. is a Community Action Agency serving 30 counties in Tennessee and 2 counties in Kentucky.


DCEA was organized in 1965 as a non-profit corporation. The activities of DCEA are governed by a 27 member Board of Directors who represent all segments of the population living in each of the six counties. DCEA is a 501(c)3 tax exempt corporation and operates mainly under funds received from the Tennessee Department of Human Services, using Federal, State and local funds to provide special services. 


In addition to the programmatic advice of the governing body, input is sought from the client population and the general public through community meeting, formalized questionnaires and informal comment of specific program activities as well as projects in planning stages.


All agency projects coordinate activities with other local agencies and organizations having contact with potential clients to maximize the mobilization of resources and reduce duplication in services. 


The Promise of Community Action....Community Action changes people's lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities and makes America a better place to live. We care about the entire community and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other. 

What Does a Community Action Agency Do?

There is no "typical" Community Action Agency. No two CAAs are exactly alike because each is governed by the leadership and specific needs of its local community. Despite this fact, there is a typical CAA approach to fighting the causes of poverty.

The eight goals outlined in the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) statute address different causes of poverty. Since each family is likely to be affected by more than one of these causes, the purposes of CSBG determine the type of coordinating role that CAAs play. 

The statutory goals are: 

  • Securing and Maintaining Employment

  • Securing Adequate Education

  • Better Income Management

  • Securing Adequate Housing

  • Providing Emergency Services

  • Improving Nutrition

  • Creating Linkages Among Anti-Poverty Programs

  • Achieving Self-Sufficiency

To meet these goals, local agencies offer a variety of programs that serve low-income children, families, and seniors. They coordinate emergency assistance, provide weatherization services, sponsor youth programs, operate senior centers, and provide transportation in rural areas. CAAs provide linkages to job training opportunities, GED preparation courses, and vocational education programs. They provide a range of services addressing poverty-related programs from income management and credit counseling to entrepreneurial development and small business incubators; from domestic violence crisis assistance to family development programs and parenting classes; from food pantries and emergency shelters to low-income housing development and community revitalization projects.

The common goal, enabling people to become independent of any public or charitable assistance, engenders common CAA operating methods. The requirements of the CSBG, expertise of state and local manager shared over a generation of training and peer exchange, and above all the observation of outcomes of various interventions have led to similar program designs across the nation. 

In general, CAAs prioritize prevention initiatives and provide extended involvement with clients to support the length of time and variety of assistance required to increase their opportunity to be economically self-sufficient. When agencies provide crisis services or when they distribute food or goods, they seek to make those contacts with their clients and introduction to opportunities for moving the clients away from dependence on stop-gap aid.

For more information, please visit the Community Action Partnership

Legislative History

Community Action was born with the enactment of the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964. The ambitious purpose of this statute was to eliminate the causes and consequences of poverty in the United States. The Act established a federal Office of Economic Opportunity, formed state Economic Opportunity Offices, and created new community-based organizations called Community Action Agencies (CAAs).

From the start, CAAs were expected to act as laboratories for innovative methods of eliminating causes of poverty, causes that neither private efforts, post-war economic growth, nor the public programs initiated before and after World War II had been able to eliminate. CAAs succeeded dramatically in this role. For example, it is in the Community Services Network that the Head Start program was developed, refined, and shared with other institutions. Today, CAAs remain the single largest delivery system for Head Start programs. Legal services, the Community Food and Nutrition Program, Foster Grandparents, and National Youth Sports are just a few of the successful programs that began in the Community Services Network. Between 1964 and 1980 Governors and Congress regularly adapted pilot programs from CAAs to become nationwide programs. Among the largest of these programs were the energy crisis assistance programs and pilot energy conservation programs in several New England and Midwestern states. In the mid-1970s these became national programs, now known respectively as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (DOE/WAP). In 1981, President Reagan reduced the federal government's role by consolidating many domestic social programs into block grants to the States. The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) was one of six block grant programs created under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981.

While Federal funding had been previously awarded directly to local agencies through several programs, the CSBG dollars now go to the States, which are required to allocate 90 percent of the funds to local "eligible entities," most of which are CAAs. No more than five percent of the Federal funds may be used by the States to administer the grant, and another five percent may be used to support State discretionary programs.

Today, the Community Action Network is made up of more than 1,100 local, private, non-profit and public agencies that work to alleviate poverty and empower low-income families in communities throughout the United States. Most of these agencies are Community Action Agencies (CAAs) created through the Economic Opportunity Act. The balance, included under CSBG, follow similar guidelines for structure and service. CAAs serve nearly 11 million low-income people every year in 96% of the Nation's counties.


Board of Directors 

Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc.'s Board of Directors is comprised of individuals who represent three different sectors or our community: low-income residents, public officials; and the private sector.



Officers: Rene Tabor-Chair

             Mike Collins- Vice Chair

             Roxanne Bowen-Secretary

Cocke County:  Haily Burghart 

                     Bettye Carver

                      Reganne Lambert (Appointed by Mayor Crystal Ottinger)

                      Faye Fish


Grainger County:  Terry Acuff

                          Mike Collins

                          Mayor Mike Byrd

                          Linda Roberts

                          Rena Greer


Hamblen County:  Roxanne Bowen

                           Bill Brittain

                           Jim Clawson

                           Lauren Carroll

                           Veronica Galvan

Jefferson County:  Nancy Farris

                           Rene Tabor (Appointed by Mayor Mark Potts)

                           Scott Tipton

                           Janice Wilder

Monroe County: DeAnna McClendon

                        Lori Millsaps (Appointed by Mayor Mitch Ingram)

                        Conlie Rasnake

                        Shannon Wheeler

Sevier County:  Beth Connatser

                      Wayne Helton

                      Haily Burghart

                      Buster Norton

                      Ann Montgomery (Appointed by Mayor Larry Waters)