Neighborhood Centers Reflects On The Success Of Certain Initiatives

Some leaders of community-based groups across the nation are looking at new ways to approach community building in poor neighborhoods, given the financial constraints of this economy. Houston-based Neighborhood Centers Inc. is one group that's a part of that conversation.

A successful initiative for Neighborhood Centers Inc. is defined by increased educational attainment, greater income and savings and cooperation with neighbors. Angela Blanchard, the CEO of the organization, thinks that they’re hitting the mark with their Baker Ripley initiative in Gulfton.

“At that Baker-Ripley site, we have a credit union and a school and immigration services and an art barn. And the beauty of it is at the ground-level in the neighborhood it feels like one community experience.”

Angela Blanchard, President and CEO, Neighborhood Centers Inc. Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Centers Inc.

That five-building, 4-acre site has been open for about two years. Blanchard talks about the success of the initiative in an essay in a new book, “Investing in What Works for America’s Communities.” The book will be released this week.  It includes reflection and analysis from presidential cabinet heads to leaders of rural community groups. Blanchard says now’s a good moment to look at different approaches.

“It’s about more integration, it’s about more holistic, it’s about more positive and asset-based — not about more dollars and more funding.”

Blanchard says her group likes to build on a community’s strengths. Other groups from other cities, like Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta have come to see how an integrated approach is working in Houston.