The Baptist Town neighborhood has austere statistics in terms of the poor quality of housing, low home ownership rates, and homelessness. These challenges largely inspired the Baptist Town Neighborhood Revitalization and are among the primary reasons that my fellowship exists. Despite this great need, plans to install a minimum of eleven new homes in the neighborhood could not be brought to fruition this year for a number of reasons. After initially being devastated by what felt like a failure, my hosts and I rallied around the myriad other ways to positively impact Baptist Town. Safer, more attractive pedestrian routes were created at the entry points to the neighborhood, we completed two parks, a playground, new signage throughout Baptist Town, and held the largest Community Day celebration to date, GOODat Day.
Each of these activities reminded us that as important as housing is, it is one component of the multi-faceted approach needed to bring about long-term change in this neighborhood. One of my hosts, the Greenwood-Leflore Economic Development Foundation, provided the leadership that allowed us to respond to one of the other great needs in Baptist Town: employment. Building upon the skills residents shared during GOODat Day, we offered a competitive small business grant. We awarded the grant two weeks ago. Along with the funds, two grant winners have received business cards and will participate in four question and answer sessions with local experts who can help guide their fledgling businesses.
Our grant winner has already reported that because of the equipment he was able to buy with the grant funds he has been able to continue detailing cars in cold weather and his profit margin has increased. Though we are working hard now in hopes of beginning the housing component of the neighborhood revitalization as early as January, this work has given us insights into how to more holistically respond to the needs of the Baptist Town community. As the first year of my fellowship quickly wraps up, I am looking forward to a second year in which new homes are realized, and we can support this work through education, health, and employment related initiatives.