A Look Back on 50 Years of BronxWorks

On December 7, we kicked-off our celebration of our 50th year of providing services to the Bronx. Friends, staff (current and former), board members, partners, and colleagues gathered at the Hard Rock Cafe at Yankee Stadium to commemorate the half-century of our work.

Board Chair, Roger Begelman (left); Deputy Bronx Borough President, Janet Peguero (center); Executive Director, Eileen Torres (right)

We were joined by New York State Senator Luis Sepulveda, New York City Council Member Althea Stevens, and Deputy Bronx Borough President Janet Peguero who, on behalf of the Office of the Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, herself a long-time champion and partner of BronxWorks, proclaimed the day of December 7, 2022 memorialized as BronxWorks Day.

It was actually December 10, 1972 that would mark the beginning of BronxWorks, as taken from a picture of our grand opening. Founded under the name the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), our first office opened to help senior citizens resolve housing matters and access benefits and resources.

Additional offices opened in the 1980s, as CAB became one of the first Bronx based organizations to provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS. An immigration program was created to provide assistance with legal residence and citizenship applications to the borough’s growing immigrant population.

Former Executive Director, Carolyn McLaughlin (left) speaking to Director of Development, Ken Small (right).

The 1990s saw crucial expansion as CAB responded to the growing needs of the borough, opening two family shelters at Nelson Avenue and Jackson Avenue, a borough-wide Homeless Outreach Team and a homeless drop-in center. We also established workforce programs, three senior centers, and importantly, merged with the Girls Club of New York and acquired the community center at 1130 Grand Concourse.

The lobby of the Community Center at 1130 Grand Concourse acquired by CAB in 1995.

A young BronxWorks participant in the 1990s.

In the 2000s, you can start to see the modern BronxWorks take shape. The organization evolved as the needs of the Bronx grew. We expanded homeless services, including safe havens and shelters. We expanded education and youth development programs, including early learning centers, school-based after-school programs, and college readiness. In 2009, we changed our name to officially become BronxWorks.

From 2010 and onward, you see the exact same pattern of growth where the need is strongest. We added Cornerstone Community Centers #2, #3, and #4, attended by a combined 3,500 participants a year. We launched iconic programs, like Jobs Plus, Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP); Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP); Homebase; community health programs; SNAP Nutrition Education; the Community Food Pantry; CMCC and Mott Haven Farm Stands; the Brook Supportive Housing Residence; Cooper Gardens Supportive Housing Program;
Jerome Avenue Men’s Shelter; Pyramid Safe Haven; and so much more. We added dozens more offices, hundreds more staff, and grew to completely embody our name.

As we complete the third year of the 2020s, what we have seen is thatduring difficult times in the Bronx, BronxWorks always takes action. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, through economic hardship, through unimaginable tragedies, BronxWorks has stepped up to provide the assistance that is needed. Looking ahead to the next 50 years, it’s hard to believe we won’t be right here doing the exact same thing. To commemorate our 50th anniversary, we have a year of celebration planned.

“What makes BronxWorks so special is how aligned we have alwaysbeen to the very heartbeat of the Bronx.”
– Eileen Torres, Executive Director

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