Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now
The Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now is a citizen's action group serving low and moderate income families and neighborhoods. The group is a state affiliate of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
The organization provides mortgage loan, tax preparation, lead paint screening, financial literacy and leadership training, and voter registration services to members. It also co-sponsors National Clean Up Day in June and Slow Down for Kids Day in September.
Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now began in 1970 as an experiment in local organizing spearheaded by Wade Rathke of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). The two social justice issues adopted by the fledgling group were adequate clothing and furnishings. Finding some initial success ACORN pressed for free school lunches, better emergency room care, and rights for the unemployed and veterans of the Vietnam War. ACORN members soon formed two working committees: the Vietnam Veterans Organizing Committee (VVOC) and the Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee (UWOC).
In 1971 ACORN launched a "Save the City" campaign in Little Rock to address traffic problems in the Centennial neighborhood and engage real estate developers who were "blockbusting" the Oak Forest neighborhood. ACORN won decisively in both instances, as the city agreed to create a park and install a stoplight and investigate predatory real estate practices.
The organization rapidly expanded statewide. It engaged in a very visible dispute with Arkansas Power and Light which had announced plans to build a coal-fired power plant in White Bluff. ACORN helped organize local landowners into the Protect Our Land Association and Save Health and Property groups. The power plant plan was eventually abandoned.
In 1972 ACORN hosted a "Save the City Rally" and sent invitations to all members of the Little Rock Board of Directors. It also backed the successful Little Rock School Board candidate Doug Stevens. Two years later the group endorsed 250 candidates for the Pulaski County Quorum Court, a county legislative body. In the election that followed ACORN seated 195 of its members on the 467 member court. The sea-change on the Quorum Court led to several spectacular battles over budget priorities with court chair Judge Mackey.
In 1975 ACORN spread to South Dakota and Texas, picking up in the process its first national organization president Steve McDonald.
The ACORN Housing Corporation was founded in 1986 to provide mortgage loan counseling, establish first-time homebuyer classes, and advocate for affordable mortgages. By 1980 the group had affiliates in twenty states.