It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of Gordon Gottsche on August 9, 2019. The founder of Just-A-Start in 1968, and its Executive Director from 1968-2013, Gordon was a man of vision and impact with a lifelong commitment to the health and well-being of youth in the community. Gordon changed the lives of thousands of young people and families in Cambridge through the work of Just-A-Start over the past 51 years; it is an honor to share the story of Gordon’s vision for Just-A-Start.
In 1968, Gordon brought a program model into Cambridge that he had developed while working with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the South End Neighborhood Renewal Program. This program provided work experiences for the youth of Boston with the assistance of volunteers from suburban churches in Medfield, Winchester, Newton and Lexington. Just-A-Start was launched in Cambridge!
Just-A-Start had the strong support of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and the City of Cambridge – dynamic partnerships that continue today. The primary funding initially came from the Wellington-Harrington Neighborhood Stabilization Program utilizing U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds, high school and college work-study resources, federal Manpower and poverty funds, private charitable grants, and youth from this neighborhood and the suburban churches. In Cambridge, the work included securing vacant buildings, providing temporary playgrounds on vacant land that the CRA had acquired, and providing home improvement rehabilitation and below market financing services and youth work crews for low- to moderate-income homeowners and tenants.
When Federal funding for the City was restructured into the HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program (1974), cities such as Cambridge became the recipients of these funds. In Cambridge, the City Council urged the expansion of Just-A-Start’s services citywide to include education and training programs for youth and adults; preservation and development of affordable rental housing; housing rehab financing and renovations; and homelessness prevention services. The primary goal of these programs is to enable low- to moderate-income families and individuals to live in Cambridge and gain education, training, and work experience to improve family earnings.
Gordon’s belief in the power of a caring community and his legacy of passion and dedication live on today, and will continue into the future, in all the programs and resources Just-A-Start provides for youth and adults in the community.