BronxWorks helps individuals and families improve their economic and social well-being. From toddlers to seniors, we feed, shelter, teach, and support our neighbors to build a stronger Bronx community.
In all aspects of our work, BronxWorks strives for the highest ethical and performance standards. We are guided by the belief that people must be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their present situation or past experiences.
In 2020, BronxWorks enrolled over 24,000 new Bronx residents into our programs.
BronxWorks opens its first office in Community District 5 under the name Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
Carolyn McLaughlin joins CAB as Executive Director.
CAB establishes one of the city’s first AIDS education and prevention outreach programs.
Programs for domestic violence victims, homeless assistance, and immigration services are created.
CAB joins United Neighborhood Houses, the umbrella organization for the city’s settlement house system.
Discussions for a merger between CAB and the Girls Club of New York begin. CAB assumes responsibility of Girls Club programs for young people and the Girls Club building at 1130 Grand Concourse, which becomes the CAB Community Center. Board members from both organizations agree to form one board in 1994. The merger is later finalized in 1995.
CAB launches two major programs: the Living Room drop-in center for homeless adults and the Higher Visions youth development program, which uses a model developed by Dr. Michael Carrera of the Children’s Aid Society.
With the United Way of New York City, CAB begins the Food Card Access Project.
The Single Stop Program begins at the CAB Community Center.
CAB opens the Early Childhood Learning Center on the first floor of the Community Center.
HomeBase, major homelessness prevention program targeting Bronx Community Board 1, is launched.
Citizens Advice Bureau changes its name to BronxWorks.
BronxWorks moves all of its administrative operations into a new three-story building on East Tremont Avenue.
BronxWorks assumes responsibility for programming at the Betances Community Center in the Mott Haven neighborhood.
BronxWorks begins providing supportive social services at The Brook, a six-story residence developed by Common Ground.
The Living Room homeless drop-in center expands and adds a new Safe Haven temporary shelter with 50 beds for homeless adults.
Morris Senior Center is chosen as one of the city’s eight new Innovative Senior Centers, the only one in the Bronx.
Executive Director Carolyn McLaughlin retires after 34 years at BronxWorks. In her honor, our main community center is renamed the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center.
Eileen Torres is appointed as the new Executive Director of BronxWorks.
BronxWorks implements the Healthy and Livable Mott Haven a project to improve health conditions in the Mott Haven neighborhood.
The BronxWorks Saturday Community Food Pantry opens in June at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center after participants expressed a strong need for a food source to supplement their SNAP benefits. It was designed to serve families unable to attend weekday pantries and offers client-choice.
BronxWorks continues to expand their community health services, adding the SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education & Obesity Prevention program, funded through the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance. SNAP Educators work to promote health and prevent or postpone the onset of diet-related diseases prevalent among the Bronx population.
BronxWorks strengthens its community support by establishing an agency-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee as well as an LGBTQ+ Committee. Staff from multiple departments come together to advance ongoing essential discussions on equity and justice in the Bronx community.
As the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the New York City economy, leaving low-income families particularly vulnerable, BronxWorks worked quickly to expand and adapt food pantry services to serve the ever-growing need for Emergency Food.
When New York City schools shifted to remote-learning, many students living in shelters were left at a disadvantage. BronxWorks moved quickly to establish reliable wireless internet access to support the 385 school-aged children living in our family residences. BronxWorks was ahead of many organizations across the country in establishing this service, including City government.
Our Early Years
BronxWorks began in 1972 as the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The organization was founded by a social worker and a group of clergy, community activists, and local elected officials. A two-person walk-in office was established shortly thereafter. It focused on helping seniors resolve housing matters and access entitlements.
BronWorks expanded to meet community needs. A second walk-in office was established at 2925 Grand Concourse in 1984, and by 1989 BronxWorks had expanded services with the additional opening of the Avenue St. John office. Around the same time, the organization became one of the first Bronx-based HIV/AIDS service providers and began to work with homeless families. An immigration program was also created to provide legal residence and citizenship application assistance to the borough’s growing foreign-born population.
The 1990s was a decade of tremendous growth for BronxWorks. A walk-in office was established in the New Settlement Apartments complex, two family shelter contracts were awarded, three senior centers were sponsored, a drop-in center was created to augment the work of the Homeless Outreach Team, a Workforce Development Center was created, and the Main Community Center at 1130 Grand Concourse was acquired as a result of a merger with the Girls Club of New York. BronxWorks formally joined the settlement house system in 1993, joining United Neighborhood Houses of New York, the umbrella organization for the city and state’s settlement houses.
BronxWorks in the 2000s
BronxWorks continued to grow throughout the first decade of the new millennium. A service center for seniors was established at River Park Towers, two early learning centers were created, a Safe Haven was developed to complement the Living Room homeless drop-in center, programs for disconnected youth were implemented, two school-based after-school programs were started, and college readiness services were formalized. BronxWorks also opened a second large-scale neighborhood center, the Betances Community Center.
Known as the Citizens Advice Bureau or CAB from its 1972 inception, our organization was officially re-branded as BronxWorks in November 2009. The change coincided with the creation of a new administrative headquarters at 60 East Tremont Avenue.
With the new name also came a new mission statement:
BronxWorks helps individuals and families improve their economic and social well-being. From toddlers to seniors, we feed, shelter, teach, and support our neighbors to build a stronger community.
The tagline “Lifting Lives, Building Futures” accompanied our new logo and mission statement.
BronxWorks 2010 to 2019: A Decade of Growth
The year 2010 began with BronxWorks securing another Cornerstone community center. BronxWorks also became the social service provider for The Brook, a 199-unit apartment building managed by Breaking Ground that offers supportive housing to previously homeless single adults.
BronxWorks was one of a select number of organizations nationwide to receive a Social Innovation Fund grant to implement the Jobs Plus program in early 2011 to provide job training, search, and placement services. BronxWorks was also one of eight organizations citywide – and the only one in the Bronx — to be awarded a contract to establish one of the city’s new Innovative Senior Centers.
BronxWorks was selected as an organization to pilot several programs. In addition to the launching of Jobs-Plus, BronxWorks was selected to launch Opportunity NYC, an experimental income supplement program; be one of the first participants in the Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP); and advise the administration on policies related to serving the street homeless. With the arrival of the de Blasio administration in 2014, BronxWorks remained an organization for pilot initiatives and expansion efforts initiated by the city government.
By decade’s end, BronxWorks increased its number of Cornerstone community centers, adding the Classic, Pyramid, and St. Mary’s Cornerstones to the portfolio.
The Cornerstones were annually serving close to 3,500 participants and hosting events that were attended by nearly 4,700 a year.
With the Cornerstones and Jobs-Plus firmly in the BronxWorks family of programs that served public housing residents, our organization became an active partner in the PACT/RAD (Permanent Affordability Commitment Together/Rental Assistance Demonstration) initiatives undertaken by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to improve property management and social service provision in public housing complexes. By 2019, BronxWorks had formed partnerships with several property management companies, including Gilbane, Kraus, and L+M Development Partners.
BronxWorks services expanded to include housing counseling to residents of the NYCHA Bronx River Houses to keep them stably housed. By the decade’s end, BronxWorks had established walk-in offices at the Stratford Towers and 680 Theriot Avenue. A walk-in office and a community room at the Soundview Senior Residence came online in 2018.
BronxWorks Adult Homeless Services also expanded to include the Pyramid Safe Haven for single homeless adults in 2015 and the Jerome Avenue Men’s Shelter (JAMS) in 2018. BronxWorks expanded its supportive housing efforts in the 2010s, partnering with SBH Health System (formerly St. Barnabas Hospital), L+M Development Partners, and Hornig Capital Partners in 2018 to create the Cooper Gardens Apartments, which includes 218 units of affordable housing and 95 units of supportive housing.
Because the Bronx had the worst health outcomes of all 62 New York State counties, in 2017, BronxWorks recommitted to expanding health and wellness activities into existing programs.
The BronxWorks youth and senior programs incorporated active living and wellness components into their ongoing service delivery efforts. Some youth programs, devised gardening projects where students grew herbs, salads, and vegetables. Seniors, undertook similar activities, incorporating a diabetes awareness curriculum into wellness efforts and creating or enhancing community gardening activities in selected neighborhoods.
BronxWorks furthermore created a group of community health programs to promote food justice, healthy eating, and fresh food access. By decade’s end, BronxWorks Community Health Programs represented an umbrella of programs including SNAP-Education, farm stands, and a collection health literacy programs providing cooking demonstrations, healthy grocery shopping workshops, and videos to promote smart food choices.
In June of 2018, the BronxWorks Community Food Pantry opened at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center after program participants expressed a strong need for a food source to supplement their SNAP benefits. The Food Pantry operated on Saturdays to serve families who might not be able to participate in weekday pantries due to work schedules, and was facilitated by BronxWorks staff volunteering during their time off.
In 2018, BronxWorks also began hosting Poverty Simulations for leaders and front-line staff of health care organizations, educational institutions, and community service agencies. The Poverty Simulation was created to help raise awareness about different aspects of poverty and create discussion about the potential for change in local communities.
BronxWorks established an agency-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, building on other diversity and inclusion initiatives like the BronxWorks LGBTQ+ Committee, to advance essential discussions on equity and justice and other key topics facing our communities today.
BronxWorks in 2020: Looking Forward
As the COVID-19 Pandemic devastated the New York City economy, leaving low-income families particularly vulnerable, BronxWorks saw demand for food pantry and other emergency food services dramatically increase.
In response, BronxWorks ramped up our pantry services, opening the CMCC Food Pantry every week instead of bi-weekly, and tripled the number of our food pantries from four to twelve. We implemented an appointment system to promote social distancing despite the heightened demand and enforced other safety procedures.
As BronxWorks looks toward our 50th year, our goal is to continue to grow and adapt to help our communities recover the pandemic and rebuild stronger than ever. Our efforts throughout the pandemic have exemplified the BronxWorks approach to providing the most needed services within our communities. Our growth throughout the years have modeled this approach and will continue to guide our operations for the years to come.