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Community Service Society of New York City

The Community Service Society (CSS) was formed in April 1939 by the merger of two of New York City’s most prominent nonprofit social welfare organizations: the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (AICP), organized in 1843 and incorporated in 1848, and the New York City Charity Organization Society (COS), founded in 1882.

Throughout its long history, CSS and its predecessor organizations have been committed to improving the lives of New Yorkers in need of help. To the extent possible, the CSS follow in the tradition of its predecessors–using objective measures as in policy research to examine the causes of poverty; and to direct services to ameliorate suffering and help individuals and families succeed.

The legacy of achievement includes such innovations as:

• Establishing the first public baths in New York State (1852)
• Erecting the first model tenement in New York City (1855)
• Launching the drive for pure milk laws (1862)
• Starting the first shelter for homeless men (1893)
• Helping establish the Board of Health’s child health clinics (1909)
• Contributed to the creation of the Veterans Services Center during World War II
• In 1946, CSS started a homemaker service to help troubled families
• In 1950, Ollie Randall, CSS consultant on services for the aged, served as program consultant for the first national conference on the aged convened by the U.S. Federal Security Agency
• In the mid-1970s, CSS was instrumental in the creation of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) which was later adapted by communities throughout the nation.

In 2007, CSS employed a staff of 126 full time staff augmented by 7,500 older adult volunteers.

For further reading and study:

Community Service Society online

To view photographs, visit Columbia University Libraries’ Community Service Society Photographs, an online presentation of almost 1400 photographs (and a few illustrations) from the Community Service Society Records at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The site offers representations of urban poverty, unsafe tenement housing, inadequate hygiene in public areas, and other pressing social issues in late-19th- and early-20th-century New York. The images range from the 1880s through the 1950s.

Community Service Society Archives, 1842-1995. Columbia University Libraries Archival Collections.