In November, 1980 the Spiritual Enrichment Committee of the Community Development Foundation of Tupelo, Mississippi sponsored three Family Life Forums at the Lee County Library. Out of these meetings, the need to provide care for children of working parents, for time after school, was recognized. From interest that extended from this “Latch Key Program” (children who go home to an empty house) a committee was formed from three downtown churches, to provide services. The first Tupelo Churches to answer the call to provide after school care were All Saints Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church.
The first After School program began on Monday, October 5, 1981 and was offered to first through third graders at Church Street Elementary School. Tuition was $10 per month, per child and the fifteen children enrolled walked from Church Street School to First United Methodist Church each school day. Refreshments were provided by women’s organizations of the member churches. A single director was employed. On faith, the organization grew to include other churches.
In November of 1982, First Baptist Church, also in downtown Tupelo, opened its doors to the children at Joyner Elementary School and provided total support for its program. In the fall of 1982, the program was offered to the students at Rankin Elementary, the two sites combined and relocated to First Baptist where fifty children attended each afternoon and the program official organized under the C.A.S.A. name. Harrisburg Baptist Church and Lawndale Presbyterian joined the other churches in providing refreshments, financial support and representation on the Board of Directors. In addition, First United Methodist, First Presbyterian and Harrisburg provided the use of their vans for transportation. The program now employed a director, site supervisor, aide and bus driver.
The beginning of the 1983 school year saw the inclusion of Pierce Street and Thomas Street Elementary schools and the expansion of the program to two sites. All Saints Episcopal Church agreed to provide space within their building and an application for additional funds was made to the United Way of Greater Lee County. A grant was approved and funds provided a significant part of the total revenue. Calvary Baptist Church offered its facility in the fall of 1984 enabling C.A.S.A. to serve over one hundred students from five of the elementary schools in Tupelo. Transportation was now a significant issue and a grant from United Way allowed for the purchase of an additional church van from East Heights Baptist Church.
In the summer of 1985, C.A.S.A. provided its first all-day summer program. All Saints Episcopal Church provided its facility and insurance and all other expenses were provided from tuition. Finally, in the fall of 1985, the original goal of the Spiritual Development Committee to serve all children enrolled in Tupelo Elementary Schools was reached. East Heights Baptist Church offered to become a fourth site and serve Lawhon Elementary School.
The program, now, had four sites, served six schools, offered transportation from each school to the C.A.S.A. church sites, employed an overall director, four site supervisors, seven aides, three drivers and had an overall operating budget of $40,000. The C.A.S.A. Board of Directors agreed that the economic status of most parents allowed for an increase in tuition. Tuition was increased to a level that all operating expenses could be met and church and private donations were held in reserve to fund partial scholarships based on need.
In the spring of 1988, C.A.S.A. was selected by Leadership Mississippi as one of eight outstanding programs in the state. And, in 1989 C.A.S.A. realized another goal of providing a separate program for children in 5th and 6th grades. In 2006, C.A.S.A. programing was extended to include school holidays.
Today, C.A.S.A. serves over 300+ children from Lee, Pontotoc, and Union counties each year. With an operating budget of over $400,000, C.A.S.A. offers School-Year, All-Day Care and Summer Camp programs. A fleet of buses and vans are used for transportation and approximately 28 staff members provide care to children in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.