Each year, the SC Community Development Association recognizes an outstanding individual and an outstanding project in the community development field.
Hettie Rickett Leadership Award
The SCCDA board chose Lenore McKenna, the executive director of the Charleston Area Community Development Corporation, as this year’s Hettie Rickett Leadership Award winner. Winners are chosen for their vision, partnership building and achievement of results that make a difference in their communities.
Lenore McKenna embodies the Corporation’s mission of improving neighborhoods by improving the lives of residents first, according to Kathleen Masanotti, grants administrator for the CDC. She has a holistic approach to providing affordable housing. During her tenure at the CDC, McKenna has advocated tirelessly for low-income people to be able to afford and maintain their own homes.
McKenna teaches classes each week in the Money Smart financial literacy program. This program, sponsored and funded by local banks, covers topics such as building good credit and the negotiating the complexities of a mortgage. It provides much needed education for low-income residents who want to buy their first home but are not necessarily prepared for what that entails.
She also began a program to aid very low-income homeowners in renovating their home. Although these homeowners can afford a house, they may not be able to pay for the upkeep. Homes that were once valuable assets become dangerous, and sometimes, unlivable. McKenna secured funds for this program by partnering with the City of Charleston and the State Housing Trust Fund.
Under McKenna’s leadership, the CDC also partnered with The Civic Justice Corps in its Prisoner Re-entry Program. Newly released prisoners attend financial literacy classes, coupled with post release counseling, to help them as they strive to be successful. Many of them cannot afford a home, however, so McKenna, partnered with the Noisette Foundation and the Weed and Seed Program to start the Flora Street project. This six-unit project will house ex-prisoners and their families who have completed the finance courses and have secured a job.
"McKenna’s deep passion for serving the underserved in her community is evident," explained Valeria Jackson SCCDA president and the community development director for Richland County. "Her ability to bring together different entities in the community together to accomplish one central mission is remarkable. Lenore McKenna’s commitment to low-income families and neighborhoods is inspirational."
Award of Excellence
Attendees at the SCCDA Annual Meeting in May selected Spartanburg’s South Church Plaza as the 2009 recipient of the Award of Excellence. The award recognizes projects which have significantly improved the community and have the potential to be a catalyst for further improvements to the community’s quality of life.
South Church Plaza Before
The South Church Plaza filled a vital need for area residents. Before its completion, residents had to buy groceries at inflated prices in convenience stores or travel outside the area by bus or taxi. This was especially burdensome of the area’s elderly population. Because of no convenient pharmacy, residents had to walk six to eight miles for their medication, said Councilmember Robert Reeder.
Handling banking needs caused the same predicament because there were no banks on the south side. The last financial institution in the area closed its doors more than 20 years earlier.
To provide this underserved area with much needed access to goods and services, the City of Spartanburg partnered with the Southside Retail Partners. Relying on community development grants as well as money from the developers and anonymous donations, they turned a blighted lot into a shopping center. A grocery store and a credit union were the most important additions to the area. However, residents have welcomed other retails stores such as a shoe store, pharmacy and a barbershop.
South Church Plaza After
Officials also formed a committee to facilitate dialog between the city and area residents. Committee members consisted of residents, business leaders, clergy members and school officials.
The SC Community Development Association provides a forum for learning about the community development process. Its members include municipal, county, regional and state community development professionals; employees of private companies with an interest in community development; elected officials and volunteers.