Whew! This new year is already a month old, and BCD has been busy. First, we are pleased to announce that Black Community Developers is now Better Community Development. This change reflects the cultural shift of our society. However, our commitment to our community remains unchanged.
Our organization was born from the need to lift up and empower African Americans in Little Rock during a time when it was difficult for minority people to access resources and services within the broader community. Though racism and inequality still exist, our community and our country have made significant strides towards becoming more inclusive and recognizing the rights of all people to have equal treatment and access to services.
In that vein, BCD has changed its name from Black Community Developers to Better Community Development to express our image as an inclusive organization serving ALL people in need of empowerment within the community. We look forward to continuing our work in 2010 as we break ground on The EmPowerment Center. Thank you for your ongoing support.
A vision three years in the making is finally starting to become reality for BCD, Inc. The first phase of construction of the EmPowerment Center began on January 18th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. BCD chose this day to honor Dr. King’s legacy of community service. Crews from Greg Jefferson Excavating and L&W Waste Management tore down three houses at 11th and Valentine Streets to make room for the new center. The local businesses generously donated their time and resources for the project.
"Today actually seeing the vision, the work, the people, the turning of the dirt, the knocking down of the house, the activity, it’s certainly amazing," said Deborah Bell, Director of Programs for BCD. "It’s a thing of having the faith that if you stick with your vision and your passion and have the courage, that passion will become real."
Nine volunteers from the AmeriCorps VISTA program pitched in by helping to remove debris from the houses. AmeriCorps is celebrating Dr. King’s birthday with a day of community service. “It’s an effort to see the before and after and actually being involved in the grass roots effort to make a change in this community,” said Sandra Mitchell, AmeriCorps VISTA Supervisor.
Volunteers also helped Quintella Jones move the last of her belongings out of her former home. Jones sold her home to make room for the EmPowerment Center, and BCD built her a new house a just few blocks away.
Little Rock City Director Ken Richardson called the EmPowerment center the "anchor of the 12th Street revitalization project" and believes the center will help stimulate growth in the area. Richardson said, "When you have a $5 million public investment in this community, I think it’s going to make it more likely to attract the private sector development, private sector investment that we need to really transform this community."
The $5.5 million EmPowerment Center will be a safe haven for people in need of substance abuse treatment, and will provide educational programs for the entire community. EmPowerment Center programs include: life skills and career training, a homebuyer program that provides counseling and affordable housing for first time homeowners, and a social intervention program which focuses on elimination of gang activity. The EmPowerment Center is also LEED certified, the first "green" building in the Midtown community.
Bell says the next phase of the EmPowerment Center is to raise an additional $3 million dollars to complete the project. So far, BCD has raised over $2 million dollars. The EmPowerment Center will provide single room occupancies and services for people in need of substance abuse treatment, plus educational programs for the entire community. BCD’s goal is to break ground in the fall and open the center in December 2011.
Check out our feature on FOX 16
AmeriCorps VISTAs Honor Dr. Martin Luther King with Service Project
Nine members of the AmeriCorps VISTA program celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday not with a day off, but with a day "on." The VISTAs assisted BCD, Inc. with its annual Martin Luther King Day service project. The project involved demolishing three vacant houses to begin the construction of BCD’s new, $5 million EmPowerment Center.
VISTAs pitched in and helped to remove debris from the houses, and helped Quintella Jones move the last of her belongings out of her former home. Jones sold her home to make room for the EmPowerment Center, and BCD built her a new house just a few blocks away. "We’re involved in a hope, a dream, a vision come true. So it's an effort to see the before and after and actually being involved in the grass roots effort to make a change in this community," said Sandra Mitchell, AmeriCorps VISTA Supervisor.
AmeriCorps VISTA Lisa Riahi oversaw the removal of materials such as wood, sinks and other fixtures that will be used in future homes built by Habitat for Humanity. Riahi said, "I've always appreciated being involved in the community and seeing older neighborhoods being built back up like what BCD is doing. There’s so much out here that’s available for people to restore, to bring it back to life rather than heading out to new communities."
The EmPowerment Center will provide shelter and services for people in need of substance abuse treatment, plus educational programs for the entire community. BCD’s goal is to break ground in the fall and open the center in December 2011.
"I'm very excited we're receiving this money, now it's time to get to work," said Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. On January 15, Stodola announced an $8.6 million dollar grant to renovate and build homes in targeted areas across Little Rock. The funds will be distributed among a consortium that includes the City of Little Rock, Little Rock Housing Authority, BCD, Inc. The grant came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the Stimulus Package.
Nearly 500 cities applied for the stimulus grant, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved just 79 applications. The money will go toward developing seven targeted areas including the 12th Street Corridor, where BCD, Inc. has already built 35 new homes since 2000. BCD Community Development Director Deborah Bell, along with BCD, Inc. Executive Director Rev. William Robinson, and Housing Director Darryl Swinton were all on hand for the announcement at Little Rock City Hall. The City of Little Rock hopes to build or renovate 80 to 90 homes by 2013.
Included in this newsletter's header photo: Charles Vann, Housing Counselor, Shelley Enhenger, Little Rock Housing Authority, Ken Richardson, City Board of Directors,
Senator Blanche Lincoln and Senator Vic Synder.