Helping People, Changing Lives

By Giving List Staff   |   October 1, 2021

For many, Marin County conjures the image of a wealthy enclave replete with mansions tucked into its verdant hills and woodlands. But that’s definitely not the full picture.

Chandra Alexandre, Chief Executive Officer

The reality is that Marin County is in a housing crisis, it harbors chronically homeless residents, and has large disparities between rich and even the working poor. A family of four needs to earn at least $150,000 a year to cover basic expenses: food, shelter, childcare, health care, transportation, and taxes. And notably, Marin’s Black and Latino residents are twice as likely to struggle to make ends meet. 

Into this yawning wealth gap and racial divide steps Community Action Marin (CAM). Founded during the Civil Rights era with impetus from the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, it has grown over the past 50 years to become the county’s largest nonprofit social services provider and an advocate for racial and economic justice.

When a resident of the county comes to one of CAM’s 18 sites, they’re initially asked what they most need help with. But they end up embedded in a caring community committed to them as a whole person, helping them and their family succeed. 

“Choosing between rent or food on the table, medicine or childcare, are decisions we don’t want our community to have to make,” says CEO Chandra Alexandre.

Part of paying unparalleled attention to the community’s needs has meant being uniquely prepared to face the acute challenges brought on by the pandemic. 

In the summer of 2019, for instance, Community Action Marin took a fortuitous risk and expanded its programs to include a production farm. Not only are the children and youth who come to them for high-quality free and affordable childcare and meals now getting hands-on gardening education, but CAM was also able to cycle upwards of 150 pounds daily of fresh, healthy, homegrown food back into the community at a time of heightened insecurity. It also brought culturally-appropriate menus to children in its programs and helped to keep them active outdoors.

The farm expansion was just one project that wove together many of CAM’s ongoing goals to help the community reach self-sufficiency. Integrating the types of services they offer to produce better outcomes has been the core mission, and a key accomplishment so far, of Alexandre’s three-year tenure. 

CAM’s hallmark is building trusting relationships. A relational approach to care means “shifting from ‘we’re going to help keep you housed’ to ‘we’re going to help you today, and what do you dream about for tomorrow so that we can help get you there?’” Alexandre explains. 

Walk through the doors of the agency, and you’ll meet a “success coach,” often someone who’s received services through CAM at some point themselves. The coach’s questions, Alexandre explains, hit on urgent needs but also go deep: “What insights do you bring to our agency; what is your hope and an aspiration for where you want to be (or your children to be) in future?” 

It’s the beginning of a journey that touches the whole community, the whole county, in countless ways. 

At CAM, people’s need for the services that bring them there in the first place don’t define them. That need is what stands in the way of their dreams, their spark – what they might accomplish next. CAM’s approach is to roadmap the journey alongside them and support every step on the way.


Community Action Marin

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(415) 526-7511, cell (415) 505-6840
CEO: Chandra Alexandre


We make it possible for people to achieve wellbeing by providing the education, mental health, and vital services they need. Together, we break down the barriers that get in the way of fair and lasting change in service to better outcomes for all.

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We here at MCF can confidently rely on the trust Community Action Marin has established with so many individuals and families. In these tumultuous and conflicting times, nurturing the basic level of trust that your clients can place in you and your team is an ephemeral but essential feature for extending assistance. All of us here at MCF are enormously grateful for [your] efforts.
Thomas Peters, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Retired, Marin Community Foundation

A Whole Family Approach to Helping Marin’s Low-Income Communities

Often, clients come to Community Action Marin because they need childcare so that they can get to work or school. But then they find that CAM will also help their children get dental and regular health screenings, and they themselves have access to rental assistance, help paying utility bills, and mental health support too.
The nonprofit provides the over 550 children it serves with what’s often their most nutritious meal of the day – and, at the farm site, it includes them in many aspects of food selection and preparation. It offers a way to stability and beyond for over 5,000 households from West Marin to Marin City, San Rafael to Novato.
Private donors can help Community Action Marin adapt and strengthen integrated services so that when community members come through the doors of one of their sites, they’ll have more than just the tools they need to meet the basic requirements for survival. The agency’s staff is committed to creating pathways for people to thrive.
Donations like yours help to keep the operation responsive to urgent needs and innovative in approaches to alleviating poverty. With your support, CAM’s community of clients and the county at large will be better able to meet and strengthen strides toward equity, self-sufficiency, and good food for all.

Key Supporters

Bank of America
Bank of Marin
California Department of Education
Capital One
Chronicle Season of Sharing
County of Marin
Giving Marin
Isabel Allende Foundation
Kaiser Permanente
Marin Community Foundation
Mayor’s Innovation Project
MUFG Union Bank
Redwood Credit Union
The Morris Stulsaft Foundation
United States Department of Health
and Human Services, Administration
for Children and Families, Office of Head Start / Early Head Start
United Way Bay Area
US Department of Agriculture
Wells Fargo Foundation