Montgomery residents invited to community development forum on Saturday

Dozens of nonprofit organizations operate out of Montgomery, each dedicated to a certain cause or method of improving the lives of residents of the city, region, and state.

However, because of how nonprofit funding works, many of these organizations can end up competing for resources. They could ask for the same federal, state, or private grants or just ask the same people for donations.

“There are very few collaborations,” said community organizer Deborah Neal. “People are not aware of all the funding available and what it takes to have the organizational and operational capacity to carry out effective, efficient and strategic community development. There is a big void here. »

To have a meaningful impact on issues like homelessness, scourge, crime, economic growth, and overall community betterment, Neal believes all of these people need to start working together.

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That’s why she organized a panel of 12 local leaders to lead an open discussion around the subject on Saturday.

The Maggie Street Community Development Corporation invites community members to speak about access to resources, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement during a public forum at Maggie Street Baptist Church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 21. A free breakfast will be offered to participants at the beginning of the forum.

Saturday's forum will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Maggie Street Baptist Church, 642 Maggie Street, Montgomery, Alabama.

Neal said the conversation will center on everyone’s “common goal” of building healthy and equitable communities in Montgomery.

“Residents need to understand what resources are available, how they could revitalize their communities for cleaner water, for better infrastructure, for more community centers for seniors,” she said. “They have a vested interest in seeing their property values ​​hold and grow, and neighborhood amenities are important to being able to do that.”

Invited panelists include city officials, religious leaders, and heads of several nonprofit organizations.

Terri Reynolds, founding partner of Levitate Legal & Consulting, is one of the people who will moderate Saturday’s discussion. His firm is currently working with the city and county on the administration of American Rescue Plan Act funds, which total approximately $85 million. She said the city and county are focused on “the community engagement part of administering these funds,” so she will pay close attention to the issues people bring up at the forum.

Levitate Legal & Consulting attorneys Terri Reynolds, left, and Susan Kennedy listen as Montgomery city and county leaders ask questions during a Friday meeting about federal grants.

“How can we make sure that everyone who lives in this community has a high quality of life where they have access to opportunity? It’s ambitious, but it’s something we always have to strive for,” said Reynolds. “I think it starts with what Ms. Neal does on Saturday.”

Before moving to Montgomery eight years ago, Reynolds held various local government positions throughout Alabama. Whether it’s comforting to know or not, she said the obstacles Montgomery sees in community development aren’t unique.

“You see the same issues, in all communities, across the state, across the country, where parts of the community are doing really, really well, and then other parts of the community really need help” , said Reynolds.

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She hopes Saturday’s forum will be a starting point for community problem solving.

In addition to Reynolds, the scheduled panelists are: Councilwoman Marche Johnson, Montgomery Director of Community Development Desmond Wilson, Director of City Grants Kelbrey Porter, Community Resources Specialist LaKetta Davis, Economic Development Specialist Gary Sharp, President of All Collaborating to Serve, Reverend Robert Wagstaff, Vice President of Central Alabama Community Foundation Clare Johnson, Reverend Richard Williams of Metropolitan United Methodist Church, Regional Vice President of Hope Credit Union Mary Ann Givens, Montgomery League of Women Voters President Carol Mosely and APD Urban Planning CEO Jesse Wiles.

The forum’s co-sponsors are the Maggie Street Community Development Corporation, Montgomery County Commissioner Isaiah Sankey and the Montgomery League of Women Voters.

Interested participants can call (334) 387-2747 to register for the forum.

Hadley Hitson covers the rural South for the Montgomery Advertiser and Report for America. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Norma P. Rex