Back in 1866 when BCS was founded (as Brooklyn Children’s Aid Society), its first project was the Newsboys Home in Brooklyn Heights, which provided a safe place to sleep, a hot meal and suit of clothes for the boys who were living on the streets after losing their fathers in the Civil War.
Over 100 years ago, BCS had classes for blind clerical office workers. The three month course trained telephone operators and typists through “touch operating.” Today, BCS Workforce Development successfully trains intellectually and physically disabled Brooklynites for careers in retail, food services, shipping and receiving, messenger services, custodial and clerical/office positions. BCS celebrates our legacy in creating careers for the disabled during National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
In 1916 Brooklyn Community Services mobilized to help children afflicted with polio. Over 4,000 children in Brooklyn were impacted by the epidemic and 3,607 were referred to BCS. BCS increased its staff of orthopedic nurses and transported children regularly to hospitals and clinics.
1930 – 1933 Brooklyn Community Services was one of the charities that supported people impacted by the Great Depression. During 1930-1933, BCS’s unemployment services tripled to provide relief to Brooklynites.
Lena Horne, the late legendary singer, dancer, actress and civil rights activist was born in Brooklyn in 1917 and raised by her grandmother, social worker and community activist Cora Calhoun Horne. Cora Horne helped inspire Lena’s civil rights work, and was an active committee member of Brooklyn Community Services’ division focusing on the needs of Brooklyn’s African American community.
In 1944 Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey, who helped desegregate baseball by signing Jackie Robinson, joined the BCS Board of Directors. Rickey was excited to join BCS near the end of World War II, where he helped raise funds for what he described as an “urgent demand” to aid veterans as they returned to Brooklyn.
Acquired in 1949, the Herriman Farm School provided shelter, food, classes, trade skill education, and recreational activities to abandoned and at risk young men and boys.
As part of its long time advocacy for people with disabilities, in the 1940s BCS started operating the Shelter Island Summer Camp as a place where disabled Brooklynites could relax and practice life skills.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and BCS is proud to have served people with disabilities in Brooklyn for the past 150 years.
In 1956, consistent with our continued commitment to providing job training and career opportunities to people with disabilities, BCS partnered with Skilcraft Products of the Blind Incorporated to promote goods made by blind individuals. Within the first few months of the partnership, BCS received orders totaling at over $3,000 dollars.
As part of our 150 years of providing essential services for people with disabilities, in 1964 BCS printed the Braille Cookbook of Convenience Foods, the first cookbook made accessible to blind homemakers.
In 1964 General Wilmer F. Lucas joined the BCS Board of Directors, bringing his expertise to BCS after a career of distinguished service. In 1929 he became the first African American Certified Public Accountant in New York, helping to open up the profession to other African Americans. Later, in the midst of his impressive career as a CPA, General Lucas served with distinction in World War II, earning the Legion of Merit. BCS was proud to benefit from the service of General Lucas for 16 years.