History and Who We Are Today
On November 12, 1970, Ines Caneda, Luis Matos, Carlos Leon, Philip Garcia, and Jose Rodriguez signed the incorporation papers for the Puerto Rican Organization for Community Education and Economic Development—better known now as PROCEED, Inc. It was originally staffed by fewer than five people working in three rented offices on Broad Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey. A small nonprofit corporation, PROCEED had modest goals: to establish an orientation center, carry out educational activities, and promote the general welfare of Puerto Ricans in the Elizabeth area.
Puerto Ricans had been building vibrant neighborhoods and contributing richly to the Elizabeth’s infrastructure for decades. However, the economic recession of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s caused job loss, financial burden, and racial tensions. One of the effects was a reversal of migration patterns: for the first time since the 1950’s, there were more Puerto Ricans leaving the U.S. than there were immigrating.
The many Puerto Ricans who chose to stay not only experienced the fragmentation of their communities, but were also faced with a lack of information and services due to language, social, and cultural barriers. PROCEED, Inc. was created to address these barriers and to give Puerto Ricans a medium through which they could keep the Puerto Rican community in Elizabeth flourishing.
Over the past 40 years, the City of Elizabeth has continued to evolve, and PROCEED has grown alongside it. As new communities seeking social services have emerged, PROCEED has grown to adapt to these communities’ unique needs. By amplifying the breadth of its services to reach all community members, not just Puerto Ricans, PROCEED has established itself as a comprehensive, premier service institution in the Union County Area.
PROCEED now serves all that seek and qualify for services, regardless of race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. It has expanded its programs, which range from preschool centers to a transitional home for men living with HIV/AIDS and counseling programs for those struggling with abuse and addiction. It has also taken the lessons it has learned locally and embarked on a national endeavor—to provide linguistically and culturally appropriate capacity building services to other organizations around the country and in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the USA Virgin Islands.
As PROCEED has continued to flourish as a service provider, it has repeatedly outgrown its many homes, from the offices above the Amigo Chicken on Elizabeth Avenue to the preschool on Second Street. In 2000, PROCEED began the much-needed project of buying its first home, and, in 2001, it officially began offering services from its very own, bright orange headquarters on Dickinson Street. In 2009, PROCEED bought and opened its sleek second building on East Grant Street in response to the agency’s continuous and healthy growth. Once comprised of just a few hard workers in rented office space, PROCEED is now made up of over a hundred hard workers, two newly renovated buildings of its own, a thirteen-bedroom transitional house, and offices in the City of Plainfield.
While there have been physical and programmatic changes for the organization, what has not changed in the past 40 years is PROCEED’s unfaltering commitment to helping those who need it most and to doing so with integrity, passion, and optimism. We care deeply about personal relationships, about community building, and about empowering people to become leaders and self-starters. The consumer whether an individual, a family, or another organization is always the main priority. To this end, PROCEED works to help the individual as a whole rather than simply fix his or her isolated problems, and it does so by continuing its tradition of empathetic care and individualized attention.
Over the past 40 years, PROCEED has welcomed tens of thousands of individuals to its many homes and offered each of them access to extensive, personalized services and to a reliable network of community partners. PROCEED’s consistent and effective presence in the community has allowed it to endure, not only as an active and progressive non-profit organization, but also as a neighborhood landmark and as a witness to the change, development, and tradition of the greater Elizabeth and Union County area.