ACS History

In 1879, the Seventh-day Adventist Church officially named the “Dorcas Society” as its community outreach program. It was named after Dorcas, a believer with a passion to serve others. Her story is found in Acts 9:32, 36, 39 in the New Testament. The Dorcas Society consisted of groups of women who met frequently to provide clothes, food, and/or money for families in the church or the immediate community who had temporary needs. Later, several churches wanted to involve men and started the idea of a co-ed Good Samaritan Society (General Conference Sabbath School, 2008). By 1953, the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church broadened the concept of service to address an increasingly urbanized society. This new organization was named “Health and Welfare Services by Seventh-day Adventists.”

In 1956, with the purpose to strengthen Adventist church relief efforts, it became the Seventh-day Adventist Welfare Service (SAWS). As a result, SAWS expanded into a domestic and international Adventist church-organized community program. By 1972, Adventist Community Services became the official humanitarian agency of the Adventist church in North America. In 1973, SAWS program was renamed the Seventh-day Adventist World Service. Ten years later in 1983, it became Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA), expanding its services beyond the United States and Bermuda. Upon review in 2005, ACS International was reinstalled under the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department to focus on Adventists in community services and outreach ministries program (General Conference Sabbath School, 2008).