On June 25, 1969, around a dozen local activists gathered at the home of Carla Johnston in Davis Square to officially incorporate The Somerville Corporation as a new organization dedicated to helping meet the social needs of Somerville’s residents. Shortly after, the Somerville Corporation hired Paul Duhamel, a young ordained UCC minister originally from Providence, as its first executive director.
Landing headquarters at the former First United Methodist Church at One Summer Street, the group opened the Somerville Multiservice Center, utilizing the side entrance to the church building on Wesley Park. For the entire decade of the 1970s, that door on Wesley Park became the entry point for residents needing help with any and all economic and social issues they faced, ranging from hunger to neighborhood blight.
Project Soup, still operated by the Somerville Homeless Coalition today, was founded by the Somerville Corporation in the early ’70s. And one of the more common challenges faced by low income residents was the prospect of having their heat source shut off in the winter for being behind in payments – that was not yet outlawed in Massachusetts at that time.
Under Paul’s leadership, the Multiservice Center and Somerville Corporation also served as a launching place for other Somerville-based nonprofits, such as Respond and the Somerville Council for Children. In the later ’70s, SCC’s current CEO, Danny LeBlanc, had the good fortune to get hired as a young community organizer by one of those organizations – Somerville United Neighborhoods – where he worked for 5 years in his twenties.
The organization we now know as the Somerville Community Corporation (the “Community” was added by vote of the membership and in revised articles of organization in the 1980s) has meant many things to many different people over the course of the last five decades. During the next year, we’ll ask a number of those folks to reflect and share their own experiences with SCC in the last 50 years, as we also look ahead to the next 50 years of serving the Somerville community.