60th Anniversary of ABCD, Inc. & Alliance for Community Empowerment

In 1964, the national poverty rate was around 19%. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty”. The War on Poverty was an unofficial name commonly given to legislation that was created in response to crippling poverty around the nation. Its main tool was the Community Action Agencies such as Alliance for Community Empowerment in Bridgeport, previously called Action for Bridgeport Community Development.

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lydon B. Johnson. This was the hallmark legislation to fight the “War on Poverty”. Eleven major programs were created through this Act, including: the Job Corps, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Work Study, Voluntary Assistance to Needy Children, Urban and Rural Community Action, Adult Basic Education, Loans to Rural Families, Assistance for Migrant Agricultural Employees, Employment, and Investment Incentives, Head Start, and Volunteers in Service to America.

Since October 1964 as a community based nonprofit nonpartisan corporation, our aim has been to work with people toward the eradication of the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this nation. Alliance (ABCD) concentrates its efforts and resources on identifying and eliminating the causes of poverty rather than only dealing with its effects these efforts are directed towards promoting appropriate institutional change and enabling the poor to become self-sufficient.

Today’s Mission Statement

Alliance for Community Empowerment’s sole mandate is to assist the underserved. Alliance for Community Empowerment concentrates its efforts and resources on identifying and eliminating the causes of poverty rather than only dealing with its effects. Alliance for Community Empowerment’s actions are directed towards promoting appropriate institutional change and enabling the underserved to become self-sufficient contributors to society.

Timeline

1963

Bridgeport, much like the rest of the country, faced extreme poverty. The national poverty rate was 19.5%.

January 8, 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” in his famous speech.

June 10, 1964

First meeting of the United Fund Community Planning Group to explore making the new group the community action program agency for the Bridgeport community. Mayor Sam Tedesco supported the activity. The group adopted the name of Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD).

August 20, 1964

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lydon B. Johnson. It legislated the creation of Community Action Agencies such as ABCD Inc. and other programs such as Job Corps, Work Study, Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), and other programs to fight the War on Poverty.

1964

ABCD Inc., now Alliance for Community Empowerment, was founded amid the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the recent assassination of President John F. Kennedy and record-high poverty in America and in the city of Bridgeport. William C. Hart is named Chairman.

1964

Local initial matching funds to create the local cap agency came from the United Fund ($8,000) and the Chamber of Commerce ($5,000). Six neighborhood boards were created in the poorest sections of the community: North End, West End, East Side, the Hollow, the South End, and East End.

1968

Charles Tisdale becomes the first African American Executive Director. Tisdale says, “poor people themselves must be the leaders in the strategy to defeat poverty… poverty had no place in the society of plenty.”

1970

ABCD Cultural Arts Center opens for youth of inner city at 1188 Main Street.

1971

ABCD gets $1.5 million grant to train 1,350 for jobs.

1975

Head Start, Economic Opportunity, and Community Partnership Act signed into law by President Gerald Ford. The Act expanded the programs for Community Action Agencies that were first created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, particularly Head Start.

1978

Reverend William. O. Johnson becomes Executive Director.

1984

To date in 1984-85 Energy Operation aided 8,443 households.

1988

ABCD moved from its Pembroke Street location to 1287 East Main Street, formerly St. Charles School.

1993

ABCD serves as one of several program operators for the Lighthouse Program educational and recreational after school and summer program offered by the city of Bridgeport to children from K-12.

1999

The Childcare Division, which provided quality Childcare and Head Start programs, grew by almost 300% since 1996.

2000

The day care center located at 927 Grant Street in Bridgeport, CT, is named the Cesar Batalla Children’s Center as a tribute to the community activist who died in 1996.

2002

The Child Care Division’s collaboration with Fairfield University’s Adrian Kirby Family Literacy project was one of eighteen programs nationwide to receive an SBC national Telecommunications Partnership Award for efforts to “bridge the digital divide.” Beginning in 2000, the Literacy program provided instruction in computer technology in all classrooms.

2012

Scientific, evidence-based evaluations of the Total Learning Initiative were conducted. The analysis of student performance outcomes indicated that Bridgeport public schools in classrooms assigned to Total Learning consistently made significantly greater gains in learning.

2018

Dr. Monette Ferguson becomes the first woman Executive Director.

2020

ABCD Inc. changes its name to Alliance for Community Empowerment.

2022

Alliance for Community Empowerment starts Early Childhood Workforce Development program.

2023

Limited English Proficiency Program (LEP) started at Alliance.

2024

Alliance for Community Empowerment celebrates its 60th anniversary serving the Greater Bridgeport area.

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