Action for Boston Community Development

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Action for Boston Community Development, Inc. (ABCD)
Action for Boston Community Development logo.JPG
Founded Boston Community Development Program (BCDP) 1961
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) July 24, 1962 [1]
Founder Melnea Cass [2]
Type 501(c)(3)
Focus Anti-poverty
Origins Boston Community Development Program (BCDP) in 1961
Area served
Boston neighborhoods
Method centralized and neighborhood education, services, training, counseling, and advocacy; Area Planning Action Council (APAC); Neighborhood Services Center (NSC); Family Service Center (FSC)
Key people
John J. Drew, President/CEO
Sharon Scott-Chandler, Executive Vice President
Syvalia Hyman III, Chairperson of the Board
$132,326,374 (funding 2008) [3]
Approximately 1,000
Slogan "Overcoming Poverty."

Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) is an anti-poverty and community development organization founded in 1961 as Boston Community Development Program (BCDP) in Boston, Massachusetts and incorporated as Action for Boston Community Development in 1962, serving as a prototype for urban “human renewal” agencies.[4]

It is the largest non-profit human services agency in New England, annually serving more than 85,000 low-income Boston-area residents through its central offices and a decentralized network of Neighborhood Service Centers (NSCs), Head Start centers, Family Planning sites, and Foster Grandparent sites.[5]

Every year since 1974, ABCD has a Community Awards dinner honoring people and organizations who have made significant contributions to the Boston community especially through their volunteerism.[6][7]

City-wide network of service centers[edit]

ABCD provides services to the community through a decentralized, citywide network, which includes 15 neighborhood centers.[8]

These centers are usually an Area Planning Action Council (APAC), a Family Service Center (FSC), or a Neighborhood Services Center (NSC).

The neighborhood centers include:


ABCD operates two schools for specialized populations and serve as alternative learning environments.

  • William J. Ostiguy High School [11]
  • University High School [12]

Leadership and organizational structure[edit]

The ABCD President/CEO provides operational and visionary leadership to ABCD, reporting to the 50-member ABCD Board of Directors. The Vice Presidents provide management covering every program and employee. Department Heads and Program Directors manage ABCD programs. Neighborhood Directors oversee operations in the many neighborhood-based centers.


  • 1961. Boston residents, with support from Mayor John F. Collins and the Permanent Charity Fund (now called The Boston Foundation), established the Boston Community Development Program (BCDP) to improve quality of life for city residents.
  • 1962. BCDP was incorporated as Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), a prototype for urban “human renewal” agencies (such as Community Action Agencies), with initial funding of $1.9 million from the Ford Foundation. Community activists, including Melnea Cass,[2] founded ABCD.
  • 1964. Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society campaign and its War on Poverty. The City of Boston designated ABCD as its official anti-poverty agency. ABCD established a neighborhood-based Area Planning Action Council (APAC) system to manage 11 target neighborhoods of acutely concentrated poverty.[4][13]
  • 1967. ABCD started the Urban College Program to meet the educational, employment and career development needs of the adult community. This was a collaboration with major Boston area colleges and universities which enabled men and women over the years to earn academic credits toward undergraduate and graduate degrees while still acquiring job-related skills.[14]
  • 1973. ABCD and three other community action agencies filed a successful class action suit to prevent United States President Richard Nixon from abolishing the Office of Economic Opportunity.[4]
  • 1982. ABCD received an award received from United States President Ronald Reagan for the private sector initiative in the ABCD/Shawmut Bank/Bank of New England Training Program.[4]
  • 1985. The Housing Services Program was established.[4]
  • 1993. The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education gives a charter as a degree-granting institution of higher education to the Urban College of Boston, a two-year college, set up by ABCD.
  • January 2006. The Urban College of Boston received continued accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Inc. Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.[14]
  • November 2009. Following the death of long-time president and CEO, Robert M. Coard (who had worked for ABCD since 1964 and was its Executive Director since 1968),[15] ABCD's board of directors named John J. Drew as Coard's successor. Prior to his accepting the top post, Drew had served for more than 20 years as ABCD's Vice President.[16][17]


ABCD runs a variety of programs for individuals and families living in the City of Boston. The agency's stated goal through these programs is to "meet needs, empower individuals and families, and strengthen communities." [18] These programs include Career Development, Charitable Campaigns, Early Child Care & Education, Elder Services, Financial Futures Initiative, Food Pantries, Fuel Assistance/Energy Conservation, Health Services, Housing & Homelessness Prevention, Youth Development.

Selected program descriptions[edit]

Head Start[edit]

ABCD Head Start and Children's Services is the largest early childhood provider in Boston, and is among the top three early childhood providers in the state [19]

ABCD Head Start and Children's Services is a family development program that serves pregnant women, children from birth to age five, and their families. The Head Start programs that ABCD runs are child-focused and designed to provide opportunities and services to low-income children and families of Boston.[20]

Fuel Assistance[edit]

ABCD Fuel Assistance helps more than 15,000 low-income households in Boston, Brookline and Newton pay fuel bills during the heating season.[21] During the 2009 season, the Fuel Assistance program was able to expand eligibility requirements thanks to increased federal and state funding, up to a family of four with an income of $53,608 being eligible for some assistance.[22] Funding sources have included the NSTAR foundation, which in 2001 donated $80,000 to the Fuel Assistance program.[23]


ABCD's SummerWorks program, started in 1965, found jobs for 2,200 people between the ages of 14-24 during the summer of 2009. In 2010, SummerWorks is projected to receive between 7,000 and 8,000 applications, a 200% increase over 2009.[24][25] Participants receive guidance, comprehensive work readiness and life skills workshops ranging from resume writing, financial education, conflict resolution and workplace etiquette.[26] Many of them will be placed at local non-profit organizations such as hospitals, health centers, museums, day camps, government agencies and child care centers.[27]


  1. ^ "ACTION FOR BOSTON COMMUNITY DEVELO(P)MENT, INC., Summary Screen"[permanent dead link], The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, William Francis Galvin, Secretary Of The Commonwealth, Corporations Division
  2. ^ a b "On This Day: June 19, 1968: Melnea Cass", Mass Moments, Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. "She was a charter member of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), which helped people displaced by urban renewal."
  3. ^ Action for Boston Community Development 2009 Annual Report Archived September 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b c d e "ABCD History", ABCD website (archived 2008)
  5. ^ "Quick Facts", ABCD website
  6. ^ ABCD Community Awards Dinner Archived February 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. - ABCD website
  7. ^ ABCD 2010 Community Awards Dinner - website (archived 2011)
  8. ^ ABCD Centers - ABCD website
  9. ^ Asian American Civic Association Archived January 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. - website
  10. ^ The Kennedy Center in Charlestown website
  11. ^ William H. Ostiguy High School description
  12. ^ University High School description
  13. ^ "Profile: Senator Edward M. Kennedy", Vote USA
  14. ^ a b Urban College of Boston History Archived July 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Lawrence, J.M., "Robert Coard; as ABCD leader with ‘golden touch,’ fought poverty for half century", The Boston Globe, November 5, 2009
  16. ^ "Robert Coard: Obituary", WBUR radio, November 4, 2009
  17. ^ "John Drew Is New President/CEO at ABCD; Robert Coard Dies",, November 5, 2009
  18. ^ ABCD programs - ABCD website
  19. ^ "Why Head Start?" Archived April 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine., Boston Head Start website
  20. ^ "About: ABCD Head Start" Archived January 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. - Boston Head Start website
  21. ^ "Fuel Assistance" - ABCD website
  22. ^ "ABCD's Fuel Assistance Program Expands Cap", My Dorchester, February 27, 2009
  23. ^ "NSTAR Foundation Donates $250,000 to Keep Families Warm This Winter; Boston's ABCD To...", Business Wire, Thursday, February 15, 2001
  24. ^ Drew, John, "An urgent call for summer jobs", The Dorchester Reporter, April 29, 2010
  25. ^ "ABCD SummerWorks 2009 Final Report"
  26. ^ ABCD Summer Works Program Archived June 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. - ABCD website
  27. ^ "Applications Available for ABCD Summer Jobs" Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.,, Thursday, February 11, 2010