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Honoring Elton Jolly, an OIC Legend (1931-2019)

Elton Jolly was one of the original members of the OIC movement with Dr. Leon H. Sullivan.  Elton’s impact helped shaped OIC into the powerhouse of an organization that it would become and is still impacting lives in a positive way some 55 years later in 2019.  Given Elton’s impact on OIC in the formative years,  I thought it important to share with you an excerpt from his testimony before the House of Representatives in 1978 to give you some insights into his thinking regarding poor people in this country and what was needed to improve their situation and the role OIC would play.

Department of Labor Monitoring of Manpower Programs for the Hard to Employ, Hearings Before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, Second Session – September 28, 1978 …. –


Dr. Elton Jolly speaking —- “Good morning, Madam Chairwoman. My name is Elton Jolly, and I am the executive director of Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America. I welcome the opportunity to testify on the effect of the Comprehensive Employment Training Act—CETA—on community-based organizations. I will address four principal areas briefly, one is methods and techniques of serving the hardcore unemployed; two, the role of the Department of Labor as seen by a community-based organization; three, OIC monitoring; and, four, recommendations to improve the system.

 I will try to keep my comments brief to allow for questions. I have also brought copies of OIC documents which will support my comments and give greater detail. OIC was born out of the realization that the traditional employment and training agencies were unable to serve the poorest, minorities, and others with serious barriers to employment.  The whole concept of community-based organizations evolved from the struggle of poor people to assume more responsibility for their own future and the future of their neighbors.

 During the period of 1963 to 1968, there was a considerable investment of time and energy to discover improved methods and techniques of serving poor people. OIC was one of the prime innovators during this period, and this was supported by the Departments of Labor; Health, Education, and Welfare; and the Office of Economic Opportunity.  Some of the techniques and learnings which were pioneered by OIC were: service to the whole person, pre-vocational training that must be comprehensive, open entry/ open exit training, outreach, adult education, materials designed for ethnic minorities, motivation, industrial and corporate support, utilization of churches, and trainee involvement. These are but a few of the methods that were pioneered by OIC.

We are still discovering ways to improve service and broaden service to other groups of poor unemployed people.  We have developed demonstration projects to help ex-offenders, ex-drug addicts, high school dropouts, recipients of public assistance, and others. OIC is always in the process of becoming, ‘and that is why we are always striving to improve our service.”

The aforementioned words delivered by Elton Jolly 41 years ago still ring true today as we at OIC continue to serve the whole person.  We continue to serve all people that walk through our doors regardless of their circumstances, color, religion or political affiliation.  Dr. Sullivan and his vision of self-help are still relevant and needed around the country and we will be forever grateful for Elton Jolly’s leadership in helping to bring that vision of self-help to life.  And while he is no longer with us in this life, we know he will remain with us in spirit as we continue to serve those most in need and seeking to change/transform their lives.

President & CEO

James Haynes


OIC is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization preparing people for today's workforce with quality life skills development, fundamental education, superior job skills training, and employment readiness services.


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