History of Community Action and PEACE, Inc.
Community action started fifty years ago when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty. On August 20, 1964, President Johnson signed into law the Economic Opportunities Act creating a variety of programs that helped people with low incomes. Taking a grassroots approach, community action empowers people living in poverty to help make the decisions about programs and funding.
In Syracuse, the work of community action was underway before the official war on poverty began. Primarily through two agencies – the Mayor’s Commission on Youth and Crusade for Opportunities – people from diverse backgrounds had already started working together to improve the quality of life and break down racial barriers in their neighborhoods.
In 1968, Crusade for Opportunities became PEACE, Inc. which is an acronym for People’s Equal Action & Community Effort. Our agency was born. When the doors of PEACE, Inc. opened, there were two sites, three programs – including Head Start and Family Resource Centers – and the budget was $400,000. As community needs changed, PEACE, Inc. added new programs and funding streams accordingly. In 2018, PEACE, Inc. operates nine major programs and manages a budget of over $25 million.
Looking back over the past fifty years, we can celebrate many successes. People have been able to rise out of poverty – get a college degree, purchase a home, run for public office, start a business, and maintain a stable job. But, we know the work of community action is not complete. There are too many people in our community who continue to struggle in poverty and remain economically unstable. There are children who start school unprepared to learn; seniors who need companionship or a healthy meal; adults who cannot find stable housing or employment.
Our challenge moving forward is to build upon our first fifty years of work and maintain our commitment to empowering people to recognize their own potential and work toward a better life for themselves, their families, and the community at large.