Awards Reception

Outstanding Achievement in Community Building: Joe Cavato

Congratulations to Joe Cavato, Principal & Owner at JAC Consulting LLC, recipient of our 2019 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Building!

The Outstanding Achievement in Community Building Award recognizes an individual who:

  • Demonstrates a long-standing commitment to the community building sector.

  • Exhibits leadership, vision, and a commitment to action and results.

  • Has achieved an outstanding impact in community building policy, investment, or community change.

Humans of St. Louis storyteller Maleeha Samer met with Joe to learn more about his experiences and what he's learned during his years of community building work. Here’s some of what he had to share.

Joe Cavato

Joe Cavato

“One of the biggest obstacles to community building is creating engagement and the trust that it takes for people to feel like it’s their thing. I read this quote the other day: ‘If you’re coming into my neighborhood and doing something for me, you’re doing something to me.’ That often happens in large programs and initiatives unless there’s a sense of ownership. I didn’t know how hard it was to engage people productively, and I appreciate how important that is. I always assumed that there’s a product out there that needs to be delivered, and you figure out how to deliver it. And in order to deliver the right product and produce the right result, you’ve got to engage the community and get them to own it.”

- Joe Cavato, JAC Consulting LLC

Joe Cavato

Joe Cavato

“A lot of times the available tools provided by government programs don’t fit a particular need. The Wellston Housing Authority is a good example right now of a problem that doesn’t have a solution yet. Wellston’s got some housing that is difficult to own and operate. It’s one of the poorest towns in St. Louis County. And the housing authority has 200 units and about 600 residents. Well, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) came along a few months ago and took over, even though the housing authority was trying to work their way out of that situation. Some of the units needed to be brought up to date. Under the auspices of a new mayor, the housing authority was making significant efforts to upgrade its capacity. But HUD basically said that this housing authority sucked and couldn’t be saved. And instead of HUD using the tools and programs that they have, they decided to put it out of business. That’s an example of the architecture that housing authorities are working under and how there are structural obstacles in community building. You have to use the local resources and community engagement to work around that bureaucracy. Community development moves at the speed of trust.”

- Joe Cavato, JAC Consulting LLC

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate community builders like Joe at our 7th Annual Community Building Awards on April 11!

 

Photostory by Humans of St. Louis and Maleeha Samer. Photostory narratives represent the opinions of the speaker(s) featured only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Rising Star in Community Building: Aaron Williams

Congratulations to Aaron Williams, Committee Chairman, Young Friends of The Ville and 4theVille Team Member, recipient of our 2019 Rising Star in Community Building Award!

The Rising Star in Community Building Award recognizes an individual who:

  • Demonstrates dedication to and passion for the community building sector.

  • Exhibits leadership, vision, and a commitment to action and results.

  • Shows promising potential to achieve outstanding impact in community building policy, investment, or community change.

Humans of St. Louis storyteller Maleeha Samer sat down with Aaron to learn more about his work and what it means to him. Here’s some of what he had to share.

Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams

“The first time I met some longstanding community members of The Ville, we hung out at their house for a bar-b-que. We had a little brotherhood and sisterhood smoke. Mind you, these are women that are the age of my grandparents or oldest aunts and uncles, and we hung out for about three hours talking about everything and nothing. And that built the bond we needed to try out some things as a community-based group. We’re definitely not a success story right now, but we’re moving and we were able to trust each other quickly. Us three, along with our other team members, were willing to put in the time to get to know one another and build worthwhile relationships instead of just doing the work right away. Now I’ve known them for close to two years, and we feel comfortable telling each other that we love one another. That, to me, is important, especially because I’m not a touchy-feely guy. When this 60-plus year-old woman tells me she loves me, my typical reaction would be, ‘Thank you,’ or to cringe a little bit. But I feel comfortable saying it back, and that’s a testament of where we are and what we’ve built together.”

- Aaron Williams, Committee Chairman, Young Friends of The Ville, and 4theVille Team Member

Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams

“I learned about The Ville when I was at Washington University in St. Louis. My freshman year, I took a class with Bob Hansman called Community Building, Building Communities. And then I became his teaching assistant for two years. That class always stops in the neighborhood, and I was attracted to this place because I grew up in a similar historic black neighborhood in Kansas City called the 18th and Vine district. The more I came, the more I learned, the more I got engaged. It reminded me of home. And I knew that if I were home, I’d be pouring myself into 18th and Vine. But I’m in Saint Louis, so I’m pouring into The Ville, my second home. Most people here are middle-aged or senior citizens, and I appreciate that. When I come here, it’s like talking to my grandparents. There’s this traditional way of respecting elders by listening to what they say and trying to make something out of it. So I’ll sit out here at the Northside Community Housing Office or at people’s houses and listen to them sometimes complain or sometimes just dream. And that helps me realize we already have everything we need here in The Ville. There’s a lot of talent here and a very experienced community, and that’s what’s driven what we’ve gotten done – creating with their thoughts, their pain, their concerns, and their vision. At this point, it’s more a matter of changing the outside world’s perspective of this area and deconstructing the negative stereotypes so people will start paying more attention to it and investing more of themselves into it.”

- Aaron Williams, Co-Chairman, Ville Collaborative

Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams

“Community means safety. It’s a place where you can let your hair down, let your guard down, and say what you really think and feel about whatever the topic may be. In The Ville, conversations usually revolve around how this region has never valued things that were created by this community. The level of expertise in the The Ville - Greater Ville and the beauty that was coming out of this neighborhood didn’t matter. They’ve just always been residual. And that’s why we brainstorm ways to circumvent that perspective and regenerate this place now... we don’t want to wait for the big developer to come here. We don’t want to wait for the City to say, ‘Momentum is going in that direction now. We should probably do something in The Ville.’ We want to remain the same little island that everybody thinks we are and create value, restore dignity, and invest in this place off of the strength of what it is. That’s it. And that’s the comfort that you find in this community.”

- Aaron Williams, Board Member, Northside Community Housing, Inc.

Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams

“Maybe this is a fault of mine, but I love bending or breaking rules. Maybe that’s why I don’t get caught up in trying to be on the right side of history. I would love to see this region adopt that way of moving more often. Let’s have some arguments. Let’s talk about the elephants in the room. We don’t have to attack each other and hate each other afterward. Everyone can contribute. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have or how much street cred you have. This region needs to do a better job of not being afraid of discourse. We polarize too easily, and instead of trying to understand things and seek innovative solutions, we’re afraid to step on toes. I’ve run into white people who are afraid to give their suggestions about The Ville because they don’t want to offend anyone. No! Tell me exactly what you’re thinking. It might be helpful.”

- Aaron Williams, Urban Land Institute St. Louis - Urban Plan Committee

“One thing that this region can do is stop celebrating people before their work is done. We are quick to call somebody an expert, or praise them for what they said without doing our homework, and actually seeing if they execute on what they say. Personally, I avoid awards. I avoid leadership programs. I avoid them because I don’t want that kind of attention, especially when I feel the work that I’m trying to do is not done. It was hard for me to accept this award from Community Builder’s Network. I asked if there were a way I could defer to someone else, because accepting it breeds mediocrity to me, when we actually need to push people to do better, do more. Acknowledge your shortcomings and ignorance and then seek out groups that can help you improve them. Don’t just be content with sticking with what you know and what makes you comfortable. I hate saying that, too, because I hate buzzwords. It’s like ‘comfortable space,’ ‘lean in,’ and ‘equity.’ But, I am human, and after you hear them so much, you start adopting the language. Show up. That’s really what people need to do. That’s the one thing we talk about a lot in Young Friends of The Ville, and when we started we didn't have the silver bullet or the answer. We decided we were really just here to listen and see where we can fit in. We’d have to raise money for the North Side because that’s what a young professional group does. But outside of that, it’s just figuring out where we can be helpful and stepping into that role.”

- Aaron Williams, Committee Chairman, Young Friends of The Ville

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate community builders like Aaron at our 7th Annual Community Building Awards on April 11!

 

Photostory by Humans of St. Louis and Maleeha Samer. Photostory narratives represent the opinions of the speaker(s) featured only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Excellence in Resident Leadership: Megan Betts

Congratulations to Megan Betts, Co-Founder of Northside Neighbors United and community member of Saint Louis Place, recipient of our 2019 Award for Excellence in the Public Sector!

The Award for Excellence in Resident Leadership recognizes an individual who:

  • Has shown incredible volunteerism and involvement in their community and/or community initiatives.

  • Goes above and beyond normal resident action to sit on boards, head committees, or encourage the engagement of other residents.

Humans of St. Louis storyteller Maleeha Samer sat down with Megan to learn more about her work and what drives her. Here’s some of what she had to share.

Megan Betts

Megan Betts

“A defining moment I really reflect on is the day that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency decided that they were coming to St. Louis. I was sitting in my backyard very upset because of all the friendships I had made with all the residents in my neighborhood, and I knew that they wanted to stay in their homes and that they were losing those homes that had been in their family for decades. At that point, I thought, ‘What else is there to do?’ I looked up and around, I saw the vacant lot, and I thought, ‘They’re coming for us. How are we going to make sure that the rest of us can stay?’ I think about that day when I feel like nothing’s going right, or I’m tired, or I don’t want to do this work anymore. I looked around my house and saw that I might not even be able to stay here to raise my kids, and my neighbors would be far worse off than I would. So what am I going to do to change that?”

- Megan Betts, Co-Founder of Northside Neighbors United and Community Member of Saint Louis Place

Megan Betts

Megan Betts

“My kids go to Gateway Elementary and they’re right by the Pruitt-Igoe site. The trees were being torn down and the dirt from the NGA site was coming up. There was a big spike in asthma attacks in the kids and teachers, and even in those that didn’t have asthma beforehand. How do we get ahead of this to make sure our voices are heard and that we’re on top of working with the developer? One thing I truly remember from a neighbor that has lived in St. Louis Place her whole life is her reminder to always take a step back and think about how this work impacts your family. When I ran for office, I had to be away from my family and from community work. It was perceived that my doing work at the neighborhood association was to win the election. I can’t say yes to everything and make a real impact. So what should I be involved in because my time is limited and I want to do this work for all of them? The hardest was to not be doing the work that gave me the ability to run in the first place. And, oftentimes, you can get so engulfed in this work that your family might suffer. After the election, I realized community and family meant more to me.”

- Megan Betts, Co-Founder of Northside Neighbors United and Community Member of Saint Louis Place

Megan Betts

Megan Betts

“We had the opportunity to bring in a store that brought everyday basic amenities. It was a Family Dollar, but it’s more than anything that we’ve ever had over here after a while. We had little to no business in the neighborhood and that became detrimental. Our elected officials were not in support, and we actually didn’t know that until a neighbor found out. Within a week, we got a petition together for Family Dollar to come in, contacted the company’s representative, had a community meeting schedule, gathered almost 400 signatures, and were able to get it passed at City Hall. That was huge because I know how many people go to that store now. We have a very walkable community and there aren’t a lot of vehicles. So I would consider that a win over here in St. Louis Place.”

- Megan Betts, Co-Founder of Northside Neighbors United and Community Member of Saint Louis Place

Megan Betts 04.jpg

“When I go to community meetings I often hear, ‘What is the biggest thing residents talk about in the neighborhood?’ And ours is not really safety, but home repair. People can’t afford to fix their homes, but they know that new things are coming to the neighborhood and they want to be part of that. There are so many layers for us to get to that equitable standard. We’re still at the bottom, sadly, but we’re working, working, working. Money would make a difference in this work. In my neighborhood, no one is paid to do any community building. Everything is volunteer. One way to look at it is, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s great. Look at all those people volunteering their time.’ The other thing is that there’s a lot of stuff we’re missing out on because we don’t have someone fully dedicated to get deeper into the issues. A lot of us dedicate our time, but then life happens. So we veer off and then we come back together when there’s a fire and we have to put it out. I applaud everything that we’ve done with the little resources we have. But if we were able to pay somebody to do this, we could do so much more.”

- Megan Betts, Co-Founder of Northside Neighbors United and Community Member of Saint Louis Place

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate community builders like Megan at our 7th Annual Community Building Awards on April 11!

 

Photostory by Humans of St. Louis and Maleeha Samer. Photostory narratives represent the opinions of the speaker(s) featured only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Excellence in the Community Building Nonprofit Sector: Messiah Community Center

Congratulations to Messiah Community Center, recipient of our 2019 Award for Excellence in the Community Building Nonprofit Sector!

The Award for Excellence in the Community Building Nonprofit Sector recognizes a community-building nonprofit that:

  • Demonstrates excellence in multi-year, place-based, collaborative, comprehensive community building based on strong community engagement.

  • Uses data and evaluation to achieve maximum impact in their efforts.

Humans of St. Louis storyteller Maleeha Samer met with Becky Gill and Pastor Mike Okine of Messiah Community Center to learn more about their community building work. Here’s some of what they had to say.

Becky Gill (left) and Pastor Mike Okine

Becky Gill (left) and Pastor Mike Okine

“I come from Ghana, where community building is just the nature of the people. Throughout the large cities, small cities, and rural areas the sense of community is very high. Everybody cares about everybody. You have different people in your church from different backgrounds. You watch the news. You see what is going on. And you want to be in a church that has hands and feet in the community, so people don’t see you just as a building that people go to on Sundays. At Messiah Community Center, we are defining this space to ensure that it’s open to everybody. We make sure that even though there are divisive issues in the community, we try to save politics. Let’s say you have one party wanting to do something in this space? What about the other group? Yeah, people individually belong to parties, even in the church. But we try to do things that will not divide. We want this to be a place where people can come and have understanding; where they can live together and get to know each other to understand each other.”

- Pastor Mike Okine, Messiah Community Center

“A high priority for us is having community-led events. This isn’t a space that’s about the experts coming in and teaching things, but about the apartments’ residents and neighbors with certain skills that can offer what they know. We had our martial arts classes taught by someone who brought his kids to programming and was like, ‘These classes are great. I would love to do this.’ Now he’s been volunteering for close to a year. Our cooking classes have been led by someone we met who’s living in an apartment building in the neighborhood. We hosted a block party in the fall, and the weather was pretty crappy because we’ve had crappy weather since November. It was fun to see neighbors and different people that have been involved here. One lady noticed we didn’t have any large trash bags because we only had smaller trash cans. So she brought a huge trash bin and started helping with cleanup. We had our cooking instructor bring her family and others to help. And one of the ladies who comes to exercise and her grandson was helping them, too. We had fires going, and kids were coming from down the block to make s’mores. It was cool to see everybody saying, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ There was food and fun. People were talking and getting to know each other. And a lot of different people that didn’t necessarily know each other before the day started had a really good party together.”

- Becky Gill, Messiah Community Center

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate community builders like the team at Messiah Community Center at our 7th Annual Community Building Awards on April 11!

 

Photostory by Humans of St. Louis and Maleeha Samer. Photostory narratives represent the opinions of the speaker(s) featured only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Excellence in the Public Sector: Loretta Hiner

Congratulations to Loretta Hiner, Senior Housing Analyst with the City of St. Louis Affordable Housing Commission, recipient of our 2019 Award for Excellence in the Public Sector!

The Award for Excellence in the Public Sector recognizes an individual, government, quasi-government agency, or tax-supported entity that:

  • Develops or protects policy that supports investment in communities.

  • Demonstrates innovative use of resources for community improvement.

  • Is proactive, persistent, professional, and efficient in finding ways to support community building initiatives.

Humans of St. Louis storyteller Maleeha Samer sat down with Loretta to learn more about her work and experiences. Here’s some of what they talked about.

Loretta Hiner

Loretta Hiner

“When I first started this work, I was focused on what I needed to do and what my responsibilities were. I didn't realize the interconnectedness. Now I see that I’m just one little piece in this much larger pie. And instead of fighting for a slice of pie, I see us making it a bigger pie. Playing off our strengths together, we are all working for a much greater good. It could be people working together to get a city swimming pool open in the mornings. It could be people working together to create traffic calming techniques and to make roads safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. It could be people realizing that they want to live in a community that’s clean and safe, so they start to pick up the trash. Or people looking out for where they live, demanding more, and taking the first step to make it the way they want to make it. When people realize the power within themselves and start using that power, we all see a new exponential strength that we sometimes didn’t even know we had.”

- Loretta Hiner, Senior Housing Analyst with the City of St. Louis Affordable Housing Commission

Loretta Hiner

Loretta Hiner

“There’s a project called East Fox Homes, started by a church in the South Grand area, with a lot of refugee and immigrant congregants who were being priced out of their housing. The church paired up with a nonprofit organization and started identifying a number of vacant and dilapidated houses around the Gravois Park neighborhood, and acquired them. They submitted a multilayered finance project to us, of which we were one funder, to rehab a number of historic structures and convert them into affordable rental housing. At the ribbon cutting, I remember seeing representatives from all the different funders coming together and seeing what it took to get that project done. The church and the nonprofit created a living example in which these units, for the next 30 years, will be able to house generations of people who will no longer be cost-burdened by the price of housing. The new residents have a stake in the community, and they’ll be able to retain more of their income. Now they have firmly established that they belong in the neighborhood and that this is their home.”

- Loretta Hiner, Senior Housing Analyst with the City of St. Louis Affordable Housing Commission

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate community builders like Loretta at our 7th Annual Community Building Awards on April 11!

 

Photostory by Humans of St. Louis and Maleeha Samer. Photostory narratives represent the opinions of the speaker(s) featured only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Excellence in Banking: U.S. Bank Community Development Corporation

Congratulations to U.S. Bank Community Development Corporation (CDC), winner of our 2019 Award for Excellence in Banking!

The Award for Excellence in Banking recognizes a bank or lending institution that:

  • Gets involved beyond traditional lending in community building activities.

  • Is creative in how it supports community building.

  • Provides direct support to community building organizations.

  • Has a strong community presence.

  • Demonstrates a deep understanding of the sector and a willingness to accept more risk.

Humans of St. Louis storyteller Maleeha Samer met with Darren Van’t Hof, U.S. Bank CDC’s Managing Director of Environmental and Community Capital, and David Desai-Ramirez, Executive Director of the Southern Region of IFF, to learn more about the CDC’s community building work. Here’s some of what they had to say.

Darren Van’t Hof (left) and David Desai-Ramirez

Darren Van’t Hof (left) and David Desai-Ramirez

“I hear talk about the need for more people that are passionate, committed, and have expertise in investing in the community or engaging in public service. For someone like myself, I’ve literally never thought a day about running for office, and it feels like something that other kinds of people do – something that, if you ever did do, you’d have very little agency within a broken system. But as long as we all continue to have that skepticism, then it’s going to be hard to get to the policies to start to turn things around a little bit. I’ve been influenced by a lot of the activists and what I’ll call truth-tellers. They are telling us the truth about these systems. And they keep reminding us, ‘Are you guys really moving the needle? What about this family over here and their housing? How do we continue to get better and do more?’

The good news for states like Missouri that tend not to be first movers on social policy is that there are models everywhere that we can follow. The even more hopeful news is that they’re in places that politically resemble Missouri. We need more people engaged in public service, and we need corporations that are economic engines. But it’s hard when their shareholders are saying, ‘What are next month’s earnings?’ We’ve got to get to a place where we’re pushing them to take a longer view and ask, ‘How can I exist in 20 years? What will my workforce look like? What investments am I making into the community so that I can be around and be thriving and flourishing in 20 years?’”

- Darren Van’t Hof, Managing Director, Environmental and Community Capital at U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, and David Desai-Ramirez, Executive Director, Southern Region of IFF

Darren Van’t Hof (left) and David Desai-Ramirez

Darren Van’t Hof (left) and David Desai-Ramirez

“One of the challenges I express every time I’ve been in an Anti-Bias, Anti Racism (ABAR) workshop has been that the people in the room are generally there because they want to be there. You already have a group of willing participants. How do you get at the people that don’t want to have the conversation or don’t think there’s an issue? One of the observations that I’ve seen in a lot of this work has been where people, particularly white people, come into the conversations as their starting point. Some would step into an ABAR workshop and it would be a punch in the face: ‘I don’t understand this. Why are we having this conversation?’ And then there’s a lot of people in the room saying, ‘Oh, we’ve known this for a hundred years. Why are you just now hearing about this?’ So, to me, the challenge is making more people aware. That would go a long way to addressing the problems. There are now second and third generations of families that have only known the suburbs and avoid urban centers like the plague. That didn’t happen a generation or two ago when you might have had parents or grandparents that were part of the urban core. It’s becoming increasingly disconnected, and it’s led by a lack of awareness. If we had awareness, we could start to chip away at some of these conversations.”

- Darren Van’t Hof, Managing Director, Environmental and Community Capital at U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, and David Desai-Ramirez, Executive Director, Southern Region of IFF

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate community builders like the U.S. Bank CDC team at our 7th Annual Community Building Awards on April 11!

 

Photostory by Humans of St. Louis and Maleeha Samer. Photostory narratives represent the opinions of the speaker(s) featured only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Congratulations to our 2019 Community Building Awards Honorees!

We’re thrilled to be honoring six incredible organizations and individuals at our 2019 Community Building Awards on April 11!

We’re also excited to announce that we’re working with the amazing Humans of St. Louis team this year to put together stories about the important community building work that each of these honorees is doing. Watch our website later this month for a special post about each awardee!

 

2019 Community Building Awards Honorees

 

U.S. Bank Community Development Corporation
Excellence in Banking

Messiah Community Center / Messiah Lutheran Church
Excellence in the Community Building Nonprofit Sector

Loretta Hiner, Senior Housing Analyst, St. Louis City Affordable Housing Commission
Excellence in the Public Sector

Megan Betts, Founder of Northside Neighbors United and Volunteer in the St. Louis Place and Old North neighborhoods
Excellence in Resident Leadership

Aaron Williams, Project Manager, Penn Services; Co-Founder of 4theVille and Young Friends of the Ville; and volunteer in the Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods
Rising Star in Community Building

Joe Cavato, Principal and Owner, JAC Consulting
Outstanding Achievement in Community Building

 

Come help us celebrate these incredible folks on April 11!

Outstanding Achievement in Community Building: Stephen Acree

Congratulations to Stephen Acree, Executive Director of Rise Community Development, winner of our 2018 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Building!

The Outstanding Achievement in Community Building Award recognizes an individual who:

  • Demonstrates a long-standing commitment to the community building sector.

  • Exhibits leadership, vision, and a commitment to action and results.

  • Has achieved an outstanding impact in community building policy, investment, or community change.

Stephen Acree_resized.jpg

Stephen Acree has over 30 years of experience in community development, with a career that spans both the public and private sector. Born and raised in St. Louis, he received his undergraduate degree from The George Washington University and is a member of the Missouri Bar Association with a law degree from Washington University. Stephen has a long history of experience in facilitating complex community development financial transactions, particularly with the structured development financing needed in areas that are more difficult to develop.

Stephen joined Rise Community Development in 1999 and has been Executive Director and President since 2002. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Missouri Workforce Housing Association, of which he was the founding president. His other past roles have included being a member of the Board of Directors of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, where he also served as the organization’s President; member of the Advisory Committee of the Public Policy Research Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Fannie Mae’s Southwestern Regional Housing and Community Development Advisory Council, and Enterprise Community Partners’ Network Advisory Board; as well as Chairman of the Greater St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone. Stephen has also spent time working in city government, serving as the Director of the City of St. Louis Community Development Agency.

Ribbon cutting for Lemay Homes, 2016

Ribbon cutting for Lemay Homes, 2016

In his time at Rise, Stephen has broadened their work beyond that of CDC funder and capacity builder, financial intermediary, and neighborhood developer. Rise is helping neighborhoods undertake neighborhood planning using extensive community engagement and racial equity best practices and plays a prominent role in publicizing the importance of community development. Rise is a designated local partner of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) and has a robust data shop that has aided many local and regional initiatives. This includes CivTech St. Louis, a new civic tech and data collaborative established to carry on the civic tech work that Rise partnered in with other organizations to provide a tool that gives residents access to traffic ticket information and informs them of their rights through the YourSTLCourts.com platform.

Stephen has served on the Board of CBN from its beginning, ably filling the thankless job of Treasurer for many years. Throughout his long and storied career in community development in St. Louis, he has continually used his skills, knowledge, and experience to promote diversity, inclusion, and growth.

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate Stephen’s achievements and those of other community partners at our 6th Annual Awards Reception on April 26th!

Rising Star in Community Building: Amanda Colón-Smith

Congratulations to Amanda Colón-Smith, Executive Director of Dutchtown South Community Corporation, winner of our 2018 Rising Star in Community Building Award!

The Rising Star in Community Building Award recognizes an individual who:

  • Demonstrates dedication to and passion for the community building sector.

  • Exhibits leadership, vision, and a commitment to action and results.

  • Shows promising potential to achieve outstanding impact in community building policy, investment, or community change.

Amanda Colon-Smith.jpg

Amanda Colón-Smith currently serves as the Executive Director of Dutchtown South Community Corporation (DSCC), a nonprofit dedicated to serving four neighborhoods in South St. Louis: Dutchtown, Gravois Park, Marine Villa, and Mt. Pleasant. She is a graduate of the Regional Arts Commission’s Community Arts Training program and holds a certificate from NeighborWorks America as a Certified Housing Asset Manager. She received a B.A. in Africana Studies from Cornell University and an M.S. in Special Education from City College, CUNY.

Beginning as a Program Coordinator at DSCC, Amanda managed two years of Community Development Block Grant programs in community engagement and planning, beautification, and public art. In her time at DSCC, she has built the capacity of the organization and secured its first federal grant outside of local Community Development Administration (CDA) funding. Even before taking a leadership role, Amanda secured over $310,000 in funding for housing stabilization and community facilitation activities. She has also increased office support staff by developing partnerships with the Americorps VISTA program, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the AARP Senior Community Service Employment Program.

Amanda led the design of community engagement efforts for the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods planning process.

Amanda led the design of community engagement efforts for the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods planning process.

In 2017, Amanda took over leadership of DSCC in a seamless and strong manner. With her steady management, she has strengthened the organization’s internal capacity in fund development, human resources, and partnerships. She led the Community Engagement strategy for the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Planning process, which was just awarded funding for implementation through the St. Louis Community Foundation’s InvestSTL inaugural funding round. Amanda has also redefined what it means to be a community development corporation in St. Louis with the launch of a variety of unique, innovative initiatives, such as the EPA-funded “So Fresh, So Clean, So Creative” program. She is an unapologetic advocate for her neighborhoods and their residents and will be a powerful force in the continued growth of the community development sector in St. Louis.

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate Amanda’s achievements and those of other community partners at our 6th Annual Awards Reception on April 26th!

Excellence in Banking: Great Southern Bank

Congratulations to Great Southern Bank, winner of our 2018 Award for Excellence in Banking!

The Award for Excellence in Banking recognizes a bank or lending institution that:

  • Gets involved beyond traditional lending in community building activities.

  • Is creative in how it supports community building.

  • Provides direct support to community building organizations.

  • Has a strong community presence.

  • Demonstrates a deep understanding of the sector and a willingness to accept more risk.

Great Southern Bank branch in Ferguson, Missouri

Great Southern Bank branch in Ferguson, Missouri

Great Southern Bank has been heavily invested in the redevelopment of St. Louis and offers 19 convenient locations throughout the St. Louis area, including St. Louis City, County, and St. Charles. Great Southern and its team of more than 100 associates are committed to fostering growth and long-term success because it means more success for everyone: customers, employees, shareholders, and their broader communities.

Great Southern Bank team partnering with Operation Food Search

Great Southern Bank team partnering with Operation Food Search

Great Southern’s desire for a strong, thriving economy has supported numerous CBN members as they invest and prioritize their resources to positively impact local people and their communities. They have embraced the promise of a better future with robust loan portfolios in neighborhoods that have seen significant periods of disinvestment, including Penrose, O’Fallon, the Greater Ville, Dogtown, and Peabody Darst-Webbe. To be leaders in community development, Great Southern has focused on being actively involved in economic growth, neighborhood stabilization programs, revitalization programs, small business lending, affordable housing, and community service. This has included strong support and partnership with Invest STL. By joining forces with other local businesses, Great Southern has created a pathway for St. Louis to become stronger and increase its prospects for economic and population growth, providing the opportunity for residents to live in safe places with good housing and the services they need to succeed.

 

We hope you can join us to celebrate the achievements of Great Southern Bank and those of other community partners at our 6th Annual Awards Reception on April 26th!