“My father died when I was very young and my working class family slipped into poverty. When my mother asked for help for my brother people came and searched our house and asked all sorts of personal questions. I got angry and wondered why they assumed we were bad people. My mom’s face often had a look of helplessness and powerlessness. That look propelled me to want to do something. I developed a lot of empathy and rage about injustices especially as the Civil Rights Movement unfolded. Later, I stumbled upon organizing and knew I had found something that really made sense; it helped transform me and others.”
Mary Ochs has worked as a community organizer and founder/executive director of numerous grass roots, social justice organizations. She worked in the field for over 35 years. She first became involved with community organizing when she volunteered on a campaign to organize welfare recipients. In the recent past, Mary worked as a Field Organizer and as Organizing Director for the Center for Community Change (CCC), a national technical assistance organization to grassroots organizations social justice organizations.
While at CCC, Mary directed the campaign for comprehensive immigration reform, created the youth internship program, provided assistance to the National Campaign for Jobs & Income Support and helped many grassroots groups integrate electoral work into their organizing strategies. Prior to the post at the Center, Mary directed the Community Economic Development Program at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. She launched the Foundation’s “Creating Capable Community Organizations” workshop series. She also provided customized organizational development assistance to hundreds of groups.
Mary has pioneered work that integrates organizing with economic development strategies. Mary left CCC at the end of 2005 in order to devote more time to directly working with grassroots groups and to mentoring newer organizers.
Mary lives in Hawaii. Consulting clients include Jobs with Justice (JWJ), 9to5, League of Young Voters, Urban Habitat, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), Working Partnerships USA.