ACORN at 38, Wiley at 35

ACORN Community Organizing Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

New Orleans        I got a note from a long time ACORN organizer this morning reminding me of a conversation more than 30 years ago in which we were commenting on the uniqueness of ACORN having made it to 4 or 5 or 6 years old or whatever it might have been at that time.  Way back then we were marveling at ACORN’s age given that the average lifespan of most community organizations is hardly more than a couple of years.  We were still just in Arkansas then.  It was easy to remember the first look of Little Rock as I made the curve driving up from New Orleans through Pine Bluff.  After hours in the Delta I was so relieved to be in pine trees and hills!
    38 years!  What a long and amazing journey for ACORN and all of us!  I was looking at some of the numbers yesterday just over the last 8 to 10 years.
ACORN — Then and Now

*    50 Organizers
*    22 Offices
*    13 States
*    Budget Size:  $5 Million
*    80,000  Members

*    300 Organizers
*    102 Offices — USA
*    43 States and District of Columbia
*    $33 Million per Year
*    400,000+ Members

Looking at growth of the whole family of ACORN organizations in the same period was also fascinating:
1998    $20,761,978
1999    $23,347,742
2000    $29,247,229
2001    $31,168,821
2002    $28,105,824
2003    $35,007,282
2004    $70,022,284
2005    $61,917,737
2006    $107,988,156
2007    $73,181,035
1/5/2008    $45,802,138

    If we maintained the current pace, we would hit $110,000,000 in combined operations for 2008.   Earlier this year a friend sent me a copy of an old memo I had done about the “million plus plan” imagining in the early 1970’s what it would take for ACORN to get past one million dollars a year in its budget.
    A detail that had escaped me though over all of these years hit home recently.  I heard from the George Wiley Center near Providence, Rhode Island that they were having a special meeting on the 35th Anniversary of George’s death.  I tried to even see if it might be possible for me to juggle some things and get up there.  
    It was only later that I realized in seeing the invitation still on my desk that George had also died on June 18th in 1973, three years to the day after the work to build ACORN began.  Someone I had always missed that tragic overlap, though now they will always be linked in my mind forever.  Remembering his death while ACORN was still making it to our 3rd birthday and very much a “work in progress” that could have gone either way, and the fact that we have come so far now with so much left to be done.