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Fulmont Community Action Agency, Inc.
"Helping People. Changing Lives."
Serving Fulton and Montgomery Counties since 1965

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From the days of the earliest settlers, the spirit of helping others has been a key element of American society.  As communities sprang up and population grew, the church became an important social institution and helpmate to those less fortunate.

The Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s witnessed the development of the settlement house, one of the early examples of a physical facility, other than a church, that served as a center of activity for community problem-solving.

In the early 1900s, schools began to offer formal training in the principles and methods of social work, which led to the birth of a new profession.   The great depression of the 1930s overwhelmed the nation's communities, leaving churches and voluntary social welfare programs unable to cope with the magnitude of the existing social problems.

The federal government stepped in to provide additional retirement income through a new Social Security Program and to assist those temporarily unemployed with the Unemployment Insurance System.  It created new banking and labor laws to strengthen the economy.  A program to provide "temporary public assistance" to widows and children of men killed in industrial accidents also was created.   Social workers were hired to determine eligibility, advise recipients about how to use the money, and help them obtain services necessary to get them off welfare. From the 1930s to the late 1950s, state and local governments had much of the responsibility for administering the programs created during the depression.

As the communications media expanded their scope across the U.S., the American public became more aware of the problems of the aged, the effects of segregation, of poor education, of health problems caused by malnutrition and hunger, of the need to educate people so they might work, and of the growing difficulties of the low-income population.

The American public soon believed that everyone could live "the good life" and that society as a whole had a responsibility for helping people overcome barriers that prevented them from sharing in the benefits of American society.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education declared that separate schools for blacks and whites in Topeka, Kansas, did not provide an equal education; i.e., that "separate was not equal."  This landmark decision led to an expansion of federal policymaking into what had previously been a local arena,   That decision served as a catalyst in the area of publicly financed activity such as transportation and licensed public accommodations, including lunch counters, restaurants, and hotels. Citizens began to organize to guarantee their rights, and the Civil Rights Movement expanded rapidly.

In 1961, President Kennedy's "New Frontier" included support for programs to prevent juvenile delinquency with the focal point, the President's Council on Juvenile Delinquency, chaired by U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy.  In NY City, the President's Council funded Mobilization for Youth (MFY) with the Ford Foundation and the City of NY.  MFY organized and coordinated neighborhood councils composed of local officials, service providers, and neighbors to develop plans to correct conditions which led to juvenile delinquency. It also enlisted the aid of school board and city council members to implement those plans.

It was called COMMUNITY ACTION,  and it looked like an effective and inexpensive way to solve problems.

The Ford Foundation was funding other projects, including one in New Haven, Conn., which recruited people from all sectors of the community to come together to plan and implement programs to help low-income people.  MFY and New Haven are often cited as the "models" for a community action agency.

See our other sections...
Formative Years: 1964 - 1967
Restructuring Phase: 1967 - 1968
Transition Years: 1969 - 1974
Program Management Years 1974 - 1981
Block Grant years: 1981 - Present

This paper originally was published by NACAA for the
25th Anniversary of Community Action in 1989.  It was written by Jim Masters.