Access was founded in 1967 to deliver vital community programs as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty.
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, the signature legislation of his version of the Great Society he effectively declared war on poverty and on racial injustice. Three years later a group of visionary leaders from the Catholic Diocese of San Diego met at Access’ first office on Fourth Avenue to sign the articles of incorporation and create the corporate non-profit structure for the organization: Father Mark Doran, Sister Maria Estrada, and Father George Hardy. Launching the Southeastern Neighborhood Development Service Center Project, Access’ first program under the War On Poverty. Two service centers were established, one in the Mexican-American immigrant community of Otay, the other in southeastern San Diego.
Each of the service centers featured Headstart, youth development, job training and placement, and community development programs. The long and awkward title of the project was later eliminated in favor of Access, which originally was an acronym for Area-wide Service Centers for Education and Social Service (A.C.C.E.S.S.). The acronym was eventually abandoned in favor of simply, Access, by which we are known today.
While the Catholic Diocese of San Diego was instrumental in launching Access, after the end of the War on Poverty the formal connection with the Diocese was severed. Access now operates as an independent, non-profit corporation governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.