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Three neighborhoods win local initiative funding

Posted by Cara Bayles  January 12, 2011 03:20 PM

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Three local neighborhoods will get approximately $2 million over the next three years to coordinate social services, education, public safety and other resources in their communities, thanks to a grant from the Local Initiatives Support Coalition, a national organization that manages and funds resources for neighborhoods facing economic challenges.

The money will go to Codman Square, Mattapan, and the Dudley Square/Grove Hall area in Roxbury.

Bob Van Meter, executive director of the coalition's Boston office, says that the organization fosters community organizing that recognizes the connection between issues like employment, safety and education.

"Working on one particular issue in a neighborhood is often insufficient to move the needle in terms of quality of life, economic opportunity in a community," he said, adding that often, organizations tackle one problem, like affordable housing. "That can improve the neighborhood, but if people who live in that new affordable housing don't have access to things that can improve their status economically, if the schools in the neighborhood don't provide adequate education, obviously the housing will not achieve all the goals that folks have for it."

The way the coalition gives its money reflects that approach. In Mattapan, the ABCD Family Services Center will get the funding , but will lead a recently formed coalition of community service centers, dubbed Mattapan United, which includes the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, the Mattapan Community Development Corporation, and neighborhood churches.

In the other two neighborhoods, coalitions exist, but haven't been as clearly named or demarcated. The Codman Square CDC will be the flagship group in the Dorchester neighborhood, and will work with DotWell, the Boys and Girls Club and the area's community health center. In Roxbury, Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation will lead an alliance with Project Right, Madison Park Development Corporation and La Alianza Hispana. The funding will go in part toward paying the salary of a coordinator in each neighborhood.

Local Initiatives put out a request for proposals to Boston organizations in July, and decided on the grant winners in December. Van Meter says that they'd originally planned to give the grant to two neighborhoods, but they decided to pick three thanks to a glut of "strong applications."

The neighborhoods were picked in part because new transit developments, like the expansion of the Fairmont commuter rail line, which could be "a lever for economic development," according to Van Meter.

The funding initiative will be officially announced during a kickoff event on February 15.

E-mail Cara Bayles at carabayles@gmail.com.

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