JCCEO, The Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity, is one of over 1000 Community Action Agencies nationwide, all created by the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA), which Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law on August 20, 1964, to wage a national “War on Poverty.” The goal of the act was to encourage communities to organize and use available resources to help improve the conditions in which people live, learn, and work.
On January 21, 1965, the Birmingham Area Committee for Development of Economic Opportunity was incorporated to carry out the activities of a nonprofit organization pursuant to the 1964 EOA. In June 1965, the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County made an agreement to appoint directors to a countywide board of directors for a Community Action Program. On December 5, 1965, the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity opened its doors to provide a wide range of services to low-income residents of Jefferson County.
Since 1965 JCCEO has provided many important social welfare programs that have changed the face of service delivery in Jefferson County. Segregation had prevented access by African-Americans to vital services, so providing equal access to social services for all people was a major goal for JCCEO. The JCCEO multipurpose Neighborhood Service Centers pioneered the concept of bringing vital services to the neighborhoods of people in need. Through these centers JCCEO also provided training grounds for leadership development, previously unavailable to African-American residents. There are many remarkable stories of administrators, politicians, legislators, business executives, educators, and other professionals whose lives were forever changed because of employment with JCCEO.
The concept of “neighborhood empowerment” was also advanced by JCCEO through its Neighborhood Advisory Councils which gave representatives of low-income people opportunities to sit on boards and advisory bodies. It was a model for numerous current neighborhood and community organizations which empower citizens.
An important characteristic of JCCEO is its freedom and flexibility to expand and contract programs and services to meet the ever-changing needs of the people it serves. Governed by an up to 21-member board of directors who represent the low-income, private, and public sectors of the community, JCCEO constantly seeks ways and means to provide innovative projects, try new approaches, and fill service gaps within Jefferson County.
Current JCCEO programs and services assist children, families, and individuals to meet a wide range of needs in a variety of ways, including coordination, referrals, and partnerships with other major service providers in our communities. Today’s JCCEO programs and services build on a long and rich heritage of providing programs that use available resources to meet needs and assist people to improve their lives.
JCCEO is more than a resource agency providing a network of services and linkages to low income residents of Jefferson County. It is an extended family of staff and volunteers who are concerned and committed individuals with high regard for others who also believe that all people, regardless of their income or social status, are entitled to a life of decency and dignity. JCCEO has developed a solid reputation for its programs and outreach to the community that help low-income residents move toward self-sufficiency.
JCCEO has served as a channel through which hundreds of million of dollars have flowed to provide vital services for those with low incomes. It also, therefore, has provided a significant economic boost to Jefferson County, Alabama. JCCEO is a special place in our community where people find the means to cope with the gaps in their lives and to better themselves in ways that often last a lifetime.
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