Community Development at Work: Mt. Sinai Development Corporation

Mt. Sinai Development Corporation Harnesses Local Power and Partnerships to Foster a Vibrant Community

Dennis Jackson, Executive Director of Sinai Family Life Center

Mt. Sinai Development Corporation, part of the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in East St. Louis, has been working for decades to leverage partnerships and community strengths to increase development and opportunities for residents within their footprint. Dennis Jackson plays a lead role in Mt. Sinai’s development projects and has been an important part of the Mt. Sinai team for many years. He sees the challenges and the potential of this area that had been all but abandoned by developers and whose residents lack opportunities that many other communities take for granted. Through the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church and Development Corporation, Jackson has been instrumental in bringing a number of new developments to the area.

After spearheading the development of a senior residential facility right across the street from the church, Mt. Sinai added two low-income housing developments in the blocks around the church. They have worked to keep as many existing residents in their homes as possible—before, during and after construction—to help keep the community intact. They have also provided support for existing homeowners to renovate their homes, which they believe will help the overall value of the neighborhood. There is a great deal of work left to do for this neighborhood and Jackson is motivated and committed to doing his part.

Sinai Village Phase II affordable housing development project

Mt. Sinai was given a large building in the neighborhood in which Jackson sees a great deal of potential and believes could be a community center or other community anchor in the future. In addition to housing developments, Mt. Sinai believes it is important to provide some of the services that the residents need to thrive. Jackson and his team understand that new housing doesn’t build a community or serve all of the needs of its residents, and they place a great deal of importance on meeting those needs and nurturing that community.

Sinai Family Life Center Summer Day Camp for youth

Seeing that Mt. Sinai cannot meet all of the needs of the community alone, Jackson is currently working with a number of banks, non-profits, and other funders to seek ways to increase investment in the area. One of the big challenges for Jackson and others seeking to increase development and resources for residents in East St. Louis is securing funding, tax credits, and other development-supporting ventures in a city with little cohesion and no comprehensive plan. While East St. Louis has plans, they are not active, and many people do not know they exist. Mt. Sinaiis therefore seeking partnerships and funding to work toward a comprehensive plan that could help not just Mt. Sinai but other communities in East St. Louis.

An important partner for Jackson and Mt. Sinai is East Side Aligned, a collaborative effort to improve the lives of children in East St. Louis. Jackson strongly believes in the importance of childhood development and sees great potential in the way that East Side Aligned has been able to bring together a number of different organizations and people involved with helping children.

The East St. Louis community and its residents have come a long way in the past couple of decades. While many challenges remain, Mt. Sinai Development Corporation is ready to tackle them while improving the well-being of their residents.

Written by Kathleen Redmon, CBN Practicum Student