Asset Based Community Development: A Story of Sharing

Kimi Zimmerman–Community enCompass

What is ABCD?

It’s simple really.  At its best, Asset Based Community Development comes out in life stories.

Take Linda for example.  I honestly don’t know much about her.  She’s a retired nurse and new to the McLaughlin neighborhood.  Judging by her kind disposition, I’d venture to say she was the kind of nurse that people remembered and wanted to thank because she made an unpleasant doctor or hospital visit more bearable.

I met Linda one day at Sacred Suds.  She wasn’t doing laundry or showering. Instead, she was taking blood pressure for neighbors that were using the facility.  She wasn’t doing it for money or in any official capacity.  She was doing it because she cares about her community.  She was doing it because she has a passion for people and for nursing. It’s in her DNA.  She has a God-given gift and she can’t help but use it.

This is ABCD - neighbors using their gifts and talents to enrich, change, help, care for, and love the community they are a part of.  Neighbors like Linda.  But the story doesn’t end there.  Linda used her own blood pressure equipment, but found she didn’t have the right size cuff for some of the neighbors.  Another neighbor heard about it and contacted a local agency to see how they could go about getting a larger cuff.  When the agency heard about the volunteer work Linda was doing at Sacred, they couldn’t help but support the cause and donate the equipment.  ABCD is contagious!

This is a simple story about one person doing good by sharing her gifts with her neighbors.

What is ABCD?  It’s neighbors sharing the best parts of themselves to help build a stronger community.

In the News: Asset Based Community Development

The Muskegon Chronicle highlighted CFA member Kimi Zimmerman (Community enCompass) in a February 8th on-line article.  Writer Dave Alexander describes the neighborhood transformation taking place in the McLaughlin neighborhood of Muskegon, MI, and focuses on the principles of Asset Based Community Development as the catalyst for change.  He quotes member Kimi Zimmerman, “This neighborhood has grasped the concepts and put them to work here in Muskegon.”  She continues, “We are seeing a beautiful transformation taking place.” Click here to read the full article.

Neighborhood Change: A Better Way

View this great video from one CFA member, and see what happens when neighbors,
“…call out each other’s gifts, and fill in for each other’s weaknesses.”



A Better Way from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

Kimi Zimmerman, Community enCompass

Bethany Housing Resident Models “Good Neighbor”

Kimi Zimmerman – Community enCompass

Theresa’s story is exciting to me because it accomplishes exactly what I think ABCD is all about. It opens the door for all neighbors to give what they have been given to make a difference in a community…one life at a time. What a story of hope! and doing life together! and love for our neighbor. Theresa was given hope when a community believed in her and worked with her and made room for her to become more of who God intended her to be and in turn we are watching her do the same in the lives of the children around her.

Theresa Higdon is an everyday hero who understands the value of neighbors working together to achieve great things.  Even while she strives to move forward with her life, she works hard to accomplish great things in our community.  Theresa became a member of the McLaughlin community when she entered our Bethany Transitional Housing Program after a number of homeless episodes.  She progressed to the point of becoming part of our Home Ownership Program and is currently leasing with the option to purchase her home while she continues to work on repairing her credit.

Read more of this post

Neighborhood Beautification

Neighborhood Beautification from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

Some residents of a neighborhood in Muskegon, MI decided to take their neighborhood back and beautify
Posted: June 22, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Community Betterment
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Community Garden

Community Garden from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

How can you bring neighbors together and encourage neighborhood involvement? Start a community
Posted: June 7, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (4:46)
To download Quicktime right click (control-click for Mac) on the “DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME” text and choose “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or “Download Linked File.”

“Put ‘em to work!” Youth Employment in McLaughlin

Sharon is 18 years old, and has an 18-month old daughter.  She dropped out of school in the 9th grade when she got pregnant.  Now a “single mom,” she is in an up-and-down relationship with her “baby’s daddy.” She struggles with academics, especially with reading.  She hasn’t spoken to her father in years, and recently was forced out of her mother’s place.  She is now in a living situation that is very precarious and unhealthy for her and for her baby.  Sharon and her daughter are living well below the poverty line and are essentially homeless.

Sharon recently became a program participant with Community enCompass’ Youth Entrepreneurship/Employment Program (YEP!).  She gets up every morning at 5:45 AM, prepares her daughter for the day of childcare, and walks across the neighborhood in the icy morning air to get to the job site.  She is always on-time.  She is a hard-worker: steady, silent, persistent.  She is willing to learn and is very creative.

The job site is 235 E. Larch, where she and seven other youth from the neighborhood are rehabilitating a home that had sat vacant for several years.   The home will be used as part of Community enCompass’ Permanent Supportive Housing Program for homeless families.

Ron Owens, a long-time builder and former Director of WISH (West Michigan Independent Self-help Housing), is the project supervisor at the job site and has been the primary teacher of construction skills for the YEP youth.  Ron is excited about the growth that he has seen in the youth over the past six months since the project’s inception.

“They’ve learned so much already: how to get to work on time, what it means to be responsible for your work tools, how to use a speed square, how to swing a hammer, what nails to use in what situation, and—oh yes—those math skills you thought you would never need, and why a lunch from home is always better than fast food. The list goes on and on.”

“When the youth first received their own tools, the biggest mystery was the tape measurer.  It had lots of numbers on it, but the confusing part was all the little marks between those numbers. At first when I asked for a measurement I would get everything from, ‘It’s the third little mark past the second big mark after the number 68′ to ‘That would be 68 and two quarter, I think.’  Often I would be waiting for a measurement, and waiting and waiting, until I would say something like ‘Can you give me the measurement before I die of old age?’  This would always bring a smile to the faces of those who were standing by waiting, until it was their turn!  Now everyone can read and use a tape measure. That deserves big congratulations to all!

YEP is more than “just a job.”  As Ron reflects, “All of the youth are facing significant adversity in their lives.  We all try to understand how each person’s daily life can impact their workday, and we work through these issues by concentrating on the job at hand.  We have all learned a great deal, not just about building and construction, not just about life skills, but about each other and how to work with each other.  Learning these things has not been easy, but the reward they get from seeing a job well done gives them a sense of satisfaction that can be hard to come by in the neighborhood.”

Sharon is taking small, but mighty steps towards a different future for herself and her baby.  We all recognize and name the obstacles that are around her, but Community enCompass—its staff, programs, resources, and PRAYERS—is committed to walk along side of her as she takes each one of those small and mighty steps.

YEP is a partnership of AmeriCorps, CRWRC, Department of Employment and Training, GoodWill Industries, and Community enCompass.  Collaboration makes things happen!

Jim Schepers

Michigan Community Takes Another Cohesive Step

This spring, one of our partners in West Michigan decided to merge with another community nonprofit.  Sacred Suds, and Bethany Housing Ministries, both operating within the McLaughlin neighborhood of Muskegon, Michigan, had been working together for many years.  The likely community benefit beyond those efficiencies associated with combined operations seems substantial: a stronger McLaughlin neighborhood resulting from a highly intentional strategy of engaging neighborhood partners in both the process of forming the new entity, and inviting their participation as board members in the new body.

Part of the process of engaging the McLaughlin neighborhood in the process of forming the new body, was a Saturday morning gathering of some 40 neighborhood stakeholders to discuss neighborhood issues and give input on the organizational merger.  Alongside residents from the neighborhood, there were representatives from the neighborhood association, the local elementary school, the police department, the county health department, several local churches, and the two merging nonprofits.  The gathered group was quite varied, reflecting both the racial and religious diversity of the neighborhood.  Volunteers In Service (CRWRC / NAMT West Michigan partner) had the opportunity and pleasure of facilitating the community input meeting.

Following the community input meeting, the new organization adopted the new name, mission statement, and board reflecting its continuing commitment to strengthening the fabric of the McLaughlin neighborhood.

As a result of their inviting the community into their formation process, the new organization has broadened its neighborhood mission, and board representation.  As such, the new organization (Community enCompass) is now poised to seek the good of the neighborhood on a much higher level of connectedness, and involvement of community organizational partners and residents.

Healthy Neighborhood Project

Healthy Neighborhood Project from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

The Healthy Neighborhood Project is organized around the philosophy of helping people in the community fund and implement ideas around THEIR gifts and interests.
Posted: Dec. 3rd, 2007 DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Community Organizing

To download Quicktime right click (control-click for Mac) on the “DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME” text and choose “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or “Download Linked File.”

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