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Community Development Award Winners Named by National Community Development Association

By Tona Iallonardo, Conference Staff and Romulus Johnson, NCDA

On January 28 the National Community Development Association (NCDA) announced the winners of the Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award.  NCDA, the national advocate and umbrella group for the community development agencies of over 500 cities across America, established the award in 1987 to recognize exemplary and innovative uses of CDBG funds to address the needs of low- and moderate income families, homes, and neighborhoods.

The award is named for Audrey Nelson, the first Deputy Executive Secretary of NCDA.  Nelson grew up in an inner-city Chicago neighborhood that was a target area of neighborhood based community development efforts.  Her commitment to neighborhood community development and her drive to serve low income people was cut short when she died from cancer at the age of 29.

The Winners

Tapestry House, a Fulton County (GA) faith-based charitable home for teenage mothers established by Tapestry Youth Ministries, Inc. and funded with Fulton County’s community development block grant dollars, is a residential facility that provides a safe haven for one of the region’s most vulnerable populations–families composed of unwed teenage mothers and their newborns who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  At Tapestry House teen mothers are provided a safe structured living environment where they can continue their education and learn parenting skills.  Tapestry House’s ultimate goal is to help these young women resist a second pregnancy until some of their other life goals are achieved.

Discovery Junction, a local youth education enrichment program supported by Community Development Block Grant funds from the City of Davenport, provides a seven week summer program of structured math, reading/writing, science, recreation, behavioral classes, and enrichment experiences for youth from low-and moderate income homes, Discovery Junction has been successful in raising the basic math test scores of the students who participate in the program by 15 percent and their reading/writing test scores by 14 percent.  One of the great strengths of Discovery Junction is that many of its teachers work with the same kids during the school year.  In this way the program is able to provide students with continuity in terms of discipline and socialization skills development.       

HelpNet of the Greater Denton Area Inc., uses a computer networking system to improve the delivery of emergency shelter, food, utility bill, and clothing assistance to low- and moderate income needy families in the Denton area.  If a family finds itself unable to pay this month’s rent or without food for dinner or even in need of back to school clothes for the kids, Denton HelpNet will helps that client family know exactly which local service providers have the resources to help them right now, thereby ensuring that poor families in need of help don’t get the run around.  Supported by Community Development Block Grant funds from the City of Denton,  Denton HelpNet is a community service that was first identified as a priority need by other local service agencies in 1995.

Gage Middle School’s “After School Academic and Athletic Program” (ASAAP) provides a broad array of services to a large number of students from low- and moderate income families.   ASAAP empowers students to further their academic development and athletic interests by providing needed services in the safe and secure environment of the school campus.  In keeping with that mission, ASAAP’s  health clinic makes available basic medical and dental care to students who would not otherwise have access to those services.   ASAAP also provides clothes and athletic equipment for those unable to afford them, as well as targeted education assistance for pregnant teens and recreational programs to keep neighborhood boys and girls out of gangs.  ASAAP is credited with contributing to the community’s declining crime rate and higher levels of academic achievement.  ASAAP is funded through contributions from the City of Hunting Park’s community development block grant program, area businesses, and other foundation grants.

Jacksonville’s Historic Springfield Initiative set out to spur the return of single family owner- occupied housing to the neighborhood by having the City’s Community Development and Housing Services Division stage an auction of 25 single family homes, along with special financing mechanisms for their  purchase and renovation, to pre-qualified buyers wishing to live in this unique area. Additionally, the Community Development and Housing Services Division has begun marketing an Employer Assisted Housing Program to downtown employers. The aim of this program is to encourage workers who now commute through Springfield to settle in the neighborhood by offering them employer sponsored home-buyer subsidies.

New Orleans’ Kuji Center takes its name from the Swahili word for self-determination, Kujichagulia,  the seventh principle of Kwanzaa.  The Kuji Center is the culmination of the St. Thomas Residents Council’s desire to create a safe-haven for the development’s children.  Parents and children of the housing project took the leading role in planning what kinds of services the Kuji Center would offer once the City of New Orleans decided to commit its Community Development Block Grant dollars to getting the project off the ground.  The Kuji Center now offers a daily curriculum of classes in family life and sexuality, teen pregnancy prevention, rites of passage, career development, homework assistance, arts and crafts, drama, African dance, and the martial arts.  The Center also serves meals, arranges filed trips, and offers kids a chance to learn basic computer skills and to be mentored by successful Africa-American business people, educators, artists, etc. from across the New Orleans metropolitan area.  Parents of children enrolled in programs at the Kuji Center are also required to sign a contract stating that they will be active participants with their children in the Center’s curriculum.

San Francisco’s Job Link was launched by the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) with the support of Community Development Block Grant dollars from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Community Development.  JobLink provides the working poor, low-income San Francisco residents, and former welfare recipients with the skills and experience necessary to obtain entry-level jobs with career advancement and wage progression opportunities in the region’s expanding new media and technology industries.  JobLink offers an innovative 480-hour training program that stresses media and technology skills recommended by its industry advisory board.  Working in teams for actual clients, JobLink participants gain real world experience while enjoying almost unlimited access to industry-standard hardware and software. Applicants are identified and recruited through partnerships with an array of community-based agencies.   Because of JobLink’s success, BAVC has attracted additional funding to expand its model to serve the working poor by establishing satellite training centers.


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