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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia-based Opportunities Industrialization Center is kicking off its 50th anniversary celebration, beginning today.

The nonprofit self-help organization started small but has grown into a movement, with 44 programs in 22 states.

Founded in 1964 by the late Rev. Leon Sullivan when joblessness was epidemic in the black community, OIC has, over the subsequent half-century, trained millions to work in growing industries.

“Helping people help themselves is just not a cliché but really an operating principle,” says outgoing president Bob Nelson.  He says OIC has evolved with the times, at first training the unemployed for manufacturing jobs but now training for jobs in hospitality.

“We have our graduates in every hotel and restaurant in the region,” Nelson notes.

Christina Guiden (at left in photo) has spent the last four months working in kitchen at The Opportunity Inn, an OIC-run mock hotel.

“I want to open something like a mom-and-pop restaurant,” she tells KYW Newsradio.   She’ll graduate from the free program this month.  “I only had to spend about $200 (for a set of knives) to get the same knowledge I’d have to pay $22,000 at another school,” she says.

OIC will celebrate its golden anniversary with a three-day conference, starting today, a gala on Saturday, and more.   Information is available at philaoic.org.


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