In 1952, Father McDonnell met a man named Fred Ross. Ross was not Hispanic, but he wanted to help Hispanic people. He saw the problems they faced. Ross asked Father McDonnell who would make a good leader. He named Cesar Chavez.
Ross had come to Cesar's neighborhood to start a group called the Community Service Organization (CSO). Ross had started the CSO five years earlier in Los Angeles. The CSO taught people how to get involved in local politics to make changes in their neighborhoods. People were encouraged to vote so they could elect politicians who would help them.
At first, Cesar had no interest in meeting Ross. Ross came to speak with him several times, and Cesar refused. Then Cesar's wife, Helen, finally convinced him to give Ross a chance. Ross told Cesar how the CSO had helped Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles. The CSO had helped end segregation in schools, buses, and movie theaters. The CSO had gotten 15,000 Hispanics in Los Angeles registered to vote. Hispanics began to be elected to local government. They could work within the system to make changes to help others.
Cesar was persuaded to help. After work each day, he went door to door getting people registered to vote. A few months later, Fred Ross hired Cesar to work for the CSO full time. Cesar's pay was thirty-five dollars a week. It was more money than he had ever made. He was in charge of other volunteers who also went door-to-door. Before the 1952 general election, Cesar and the CSO had registered 6,000 new voters. Cesar helped Mexican-Americans become citizens. He helped them fill out school and tax forms. He collected food to help the poorest families.