In the early 90’s a group of folks who were members of Oakdale Park CRC began meeting and learning about the Christian Community Development Association. The tenants of the CCDA can best be described by an ancient Chinese Proverb:
Go to the people,
Live among them,
Learn from them,
Start with what they know,
Build on what they have:
But of the best leaders, When their task is done,
The people will remark, “We have done it ourselves.”
These members were tired of putting band-aids on the problems the families in the Oakdale Park Church were facing. In 1996 Oakdale Neighbors was officially launched. Oakdale Neighbors, while being founded by members of the local church, was intentionally founded to be non-religious. The reason for this is that many folks would not trust us if they thought there was a religious motive behind everything we did. David Allen was the founding Executive Director. Soon after Dave took over Steelcase Inc gave Oakdale Neighbors a three-year grant to hire Deb Armstrong as a Family Support Director. Early in Deb’s life she faced and overcame many of the same issues facing our Oakdale Neighbors.
The mission of Oakdale Neighbors was to walk hand in hand with our neighbors, helping them overcome obstacles in their lives and in their families from being healthy and successful. In our early work Allen and Armstrong set up mentoring programs for families and individuals, they also organized blocks to shut down three drug houses, established a youth entrepreneur program, and established a job referral program.
Most notably, Allen was asked to come to Washington DC to work with the Department of Health and Human Services Department in order to draft legislation called the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. Dave was instrumental in a portion of the Bill called the Individual Development Account or the IDA program. Through this program individuals established special IDA savings accounts whereby the government matched the individuals contribution 2 to 1. These funds could be used to purchase a home, start a business, or pay for secondary education. Oakdale Neighbors established one of the first IDA programs in the nation. Today Oakdale Neighbors is continuing the work within the community with several programs that are designed to carry out the concept of Asset Based Community Development. You can learn more about the programs of Oakdale Neighbors on our PROGRAMS page.