Flint Member Visit – July 22, 2011

[This post is written by Megan Kursik, Coalition Coordinator of CEDAM’s Asset Building Policy Project.]

Photo: Gary Heidel speaks at ground breaking
Gary Heidel speaks at Smith Village ground breaking

On July 22, CEDAM Manager of Membership and Communications, Tiffany Lemieux-McKissic, and I, CEDAM AmeriCorps member, Megan Kursik, traveled to Flint to meet with two of our members and catch up on great community development happenings in the city.

We started with coffee at the Good Beans Café with recently appointed Executive Director of Salem Housing, Bill Hammond. (Congratulations Bill!) As always, Good Beans was filled with people and buzzing with news about recent city happenings and other Flint business.

After our coffee (or Mango Jet Tea in my case), Mr. Hammond took us to the ground breaking ceremony of Smith Village. Mayor of Flint, Dayne Walling and MSHDA Director, Gary Heidel, addressed a large crowd at the ceremony. The Smith Village development will be a community of 83 three and four bedroom houses located just north of downtown near University Park Estates. Smith Village was originally planned to be developed more than 13 years ago as part of the same project that included University Park Estates. Years after this development was planned, a strong push from the Flint Mayor’s office, Flint residents and organizations like Metro Community Development finally secured the resources to execute the project. Many of the homes will be available to low income buyers through down-payment assistance programs. Smith Village promises to be an affordable, beautiful community within walking distance of the exciting downtown business district.

Photo: Groundbreaking hardhats
Hats and shovels lined up for ground breaking

From Smith Village we met up with Ravi Yalamanchi, CEO of Metro Community Development for lunch at Churchill’s. Lunch was filled with great conversation and we were able to learn about the many programs and services Metro Community Development offers as a Community Development Corporation and a Community Development Financial Institution. One of the highlights of our talk with Mr. Yalamanchi was learning about their Flint YouthBuild program, which helps young adults in Flint to access education through earning a GED and then completing a construction trades training and certification program. Participants get on the job experience with projects in Flint and then job placement assistance after the program, learning valuable life skills and leadership abilities along the way. Metro Community Development was recently recognized for its successful YouthBuild program with a large funding grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Tiffany and I look forward to engaging with Metro Community Development in future CEDAM efforts.

Finally, we headed to Court Street Village for their summer open house and spent time with Executive Director, Norma Sain, and some young men from Court Street’s neighborhood lawn care program. The program engages high school students to help older neighborhood residents with their lawn care and other needs. Through the program, youth in the community are able to get to know seniors living in their neighborhood. We enjoyed our time at the open house (great cake!) before heading back to Lansing.

Thank you Flint CEDAM members for a great summer member visit!

–          Megan Kursik, CEDAM AmeriCorps Member, Asset Building Policy Project