Since 1971, ACCESS has worked to serve new Americans as they transition to life in the United States as well as our neighbors in need more broadly. From their headquarters in Dearborn, ACCESS works to provide social services to the diverse communities of Michigan. While they are rooted in the Arab-American experience, they perform their work in a culturally sensitive way to empower Michiganders of all backgrounds seeking to steady themselves and their families in these tough economic times. They are truly a Champion Non-Profit that has evolved over the past four decades while both celebrating their rich history as Arabs and affirming their place as a critical part of our American family.
This is how the leaders of ACCESS describe the organization and their work:
ACCESS began with a small group of volunteers who got together 40 years ago to help new immigrants adjust to life in Dearborn, Michigan, pairing one of the most cherished and ingrained characteristics of their Arab heritage – hospitality – with the American tradition of giving back. Through English classes, tax assistance and help with other aspects of a complicated new life in the United States, the volunteers extended their hands to the newcomers – Armenians, Chaldeans, Yemenis, Iraqis, Palestinians and many others who came to the United States seeking a better life.
Today, ACCESS is the largest Arab American human services organization in the United States and offers more than 100 programs housed in eight facilities throughout metropolitan Detroit. Our immigration and translation services and English and civics classes make citizenship accessible for hundreds each year. Children, students and their parents have access to high-quality preschool, after-school tutoring, summer sessions, recreation and sports programs.
Our skills development, job training and placement, and entrepreneurship programs help adults get and keep good jobs and fuel Michigan’s economic engines. ACCESS medical clinics, public health campaigns, counseling and mental health services strive to keep Michiganders healthy at a time when so many are unemployed and uninsured. And our strong network of social services – from emergency food to stopgap cash assistance and family crisis intervention – is the community’s safety net.
These successes are the seeds of a national Arab American movement of civic engagement and community empowerment. Out of our innovative, grassroots model, over the past decade ACCESS has branched into three powerful national projects aimed at tackling national challenges the same way that core group of volunteers approached local challenges four decades ago. At ACCESS, by assisting, improving and empowering, we have come full circle.
For more information, please visit: www.accesscommunity.org
Paul Monteiro is an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement.