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In 1964, the United Community Corporation formed as Newark’s Community Action Agency, within a nationwide movement toward expanded social services and grassroots empowerment. This movement emerged from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s call to arms in the War on Poverty, in a State of the Union address.
Community Action Agencies are local nonprofit organizations, operating on support from federal Community Services Block Grant funding. C. Willard Heckel, former Dean of the Rutgers University Law School, served as the first President of the Board of Directors. The first Executive Director was Cyril Tyson, who laid the foundation for UCC’s model of prioritizing meaningful participation from community members.
" I believe that through community collaborations and partnerships, we can devise innovative ideas and approaches to lift our communities out of poverty "
- Craig Mainor, Executive Director
UCC’s work is built on the intrinsic strengths of our clients; by connecting them to necessary resources, we support them in taking control of their lives, preventing or confronting crises, and achieving goals. The people of Newark have faced major systemic hurdles: since the 1950s, when proximity to market and maritime transportation became unnecessary for manufacturers, major employers left the city, as did many residents.
In the 1970s, the federal government withdrew support for Section 8 Public Housing, which proved catastrophic for many families, increased the homeless population, and led to a variety of in-comprehensive housing experiments. Historically insufficient resources for treating substance abuse and mental health issues, or issues in education, as well as the sweeping effects of oppression of marginalized peoples, have also contributed to the 28% poverty rate in Newark (as compared to a national rate of 9%).
Throughout the years, UCC has confronted these issues by providing services that empower the most vulnerable community members to attain skills, knowledge, and motivation to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Services include emergency shelter, food and clothing; case management; senior activities; employment assistance and training; after-school and summer programs for youth; transportation; and affordable housing.
UCC serves more than 170,000 individuals annually in all neighborhoods, communities, and wards of Newark; and our Emergency Services alone annually reach alittle over 300 individuals who are unable to access public assistance. After over fifty years of working with people in need, UCC remains committed to building relationships in the community and developing fresh approaches to holistically reinforce the abilities of Newark residents to support themselves and their families.