Author Archives: Cary Oliva

Welcome to Jessica Eldridge, Community Center Coordinator at Friendship Court

Jessica Eldridge photo blog

Jessica Eldridge is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s new Community Center Coordinator at Friendship Court.  Jessica’s specific role will be to coordinate and support children’s after school activities and resident engagement. Jessica will also be working with the various community partners at the center to continue providing family resources and support to the residents of Friendship Court. Jessica has programming experience working with youth at the James River Boys and Girls Club and will be a wonderful complement to the team, working with Community Organizer, Claudette Grant and Community Outreach Assistant, Sheri Hopper.

“I’m looking forward to creating some fun, engaging and educational activities for the kids as well as helping where I can,” says Jessica.

We are excited to welcome Jessica to our team.

UACC Kicks Off the Season with Market Days

UACC pano
The community garden at Friendship Court is just about to pop with summer fruits and vegetables.  This community garden, as well as several others around Charlottesville, are managed by the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC), a grassroots organization that promotes social equity through collective gardening and produce distribution. UACC is the continuation of an urban agriculture project called QCC Farms, started by the Quality Community Council (QCC). The idea for QCC Farms began with a group of residents at Friendship Court and 6th Street who were looking for a way to bridge the social barriers between their communities. The project started with a series of community conversations which culminated in breaking ground at the Friendship Court Garden in May of 2007 and the 6th Street garden in June. When QCC disbanded in 2011, committed local residents and volunteers formed UACC to continue the valuable work of bringing community members together through urban agriculture.Toni at UACC garden at Friendship Court

Toni Eubanks is one of several board members of the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville and has been volunteering her time to work in the garden for many years now.  Toni says she became interested in learning what was happening in her new backyard, and that’s when she approached Todd Niemeier, better known as “Farmer Todd,” to see how she could get involved. Toni adds, “Throughout the year, the garden helps engage the community and provide fresh produce to those that can’t afford it. People get to learn about plants and gardening, but it’s also a way to bring our diverse community together.”

UACC conducts many programs to help teach people about community collaboration and leadership, but a big part of what they do is distribute produce free of charge using a time-based, alternative currency called farm tokens. When someone volunteers in one of the UACC gardens, they earn a wooden farm token for every half hour of service. Volunteers can then use theirs farm tokens or share them with neighbors. Farm tokens are exchanged for garden produce at weekly, volunteer-operated distribution events called market days. During each growing season, UACC conducts 20 to 24 market days all held in community centers or on lawns in the Friendship Court, Crescent Halls, 6th Street, and South 1st Street communities. Depending on the time of year, one farm token is worth a bag of vegetables that would cost roughly $15 to $30 in the grocery store. Market days also serve as a place where people can share information and make connections. Guest chefs offer cooking demos and share recipes made with the weekly harvest. Other community organizations come from time to time as well to share information about upcoming events and happenings in the neighborhood.

Anyone in the neighborhood can volunteer in the community gardens which helps promote neighborhood engagement. With over 600 volunteers, comprised of both adults and youth, the gardens provide a great way to grow and share healthful food together, along while creating a strong foundation upon which to build a healthier community.  The Youth Leadership Team worked together with Farmer Todd last fall over several sessions to learn more about the Friendship Court Community Garden and envision and sketch what the new garden could look like after the redevelopment process.  While he doesn’t know exactly what form the garden will take in the future, Todd says he has started doing some research around the idea of creating rooftop gardens and that feasibility for the Friendship Court Community. While keeping affordable housing at the forefront, he still hopes that through careful research and open dialogue, the future garden will start to take shape.

UACC garden

For more information or to volunteer at one of the gardens, see UACC’s website.

And here is a detailed map of the Friendship Court Community Orchard.

The next market day is this Friday, June 16th at Friendship Court at 4PM.

Youth Leadership Team Tours the Architecture School at UVa and Makes Their Own 3-D Models

YLT Group picture at Architecture school

This past spring, the Youth Leadership Team was invited by the National Organization of Minority Architects local chapter to tour UVa’s School of Architecture. Professor Elgin Cleckley organized and led the tour with several of his students. Elgin is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Design Thinking at the University of Virginia, School of Architecture and teaches Design Thinking studios and foundation courses at the School of Architecture, with appointment in the Curry School of Education and the School of Nursing.

Tyquan and Elgin working on model

YLT tours A School

One of Professor Cleckley’s architecture school students began the tour with an introduction and overview of the school and its programs, providing the youth with insight into the work that goes on there.  Once inside, they were led through the current art exhibit of UVa alumnus, Carlton Abbott, viewing a collection of drawings that were created during his career which has spanned over fifty years.  The drawings depicted a range of subjects from housing to large urban projects.  Then, the youth explored downstairs starting with a tour of the wood shop. With lots of end of the year projects being completed, they were able to see some students’ work being finalized in time for May’s graduation.  Then, the students were introduced to printing and toured the CNC Lab where they learned the different ways one can print using a CNC machine. There, they saw how 3-D models really begin to take shape.  These fabrication facilities are called the SARC Shops which are in a consortium with the Arts Grounds Shops that include the Scene Shops at the Drama Department and the Shops at McIntire Department of Art. The students learned they are laboratories for thinking through making both in the analog and the digital realm.

3-D printing YLT

After a quick view of one of the computer facilities, the final part of the tour took the youth through the architecture school studios.  At UVa’s School of Architecture this place is located on and encompasses most of the third and fourth floors of Campbell Hall.  It consists of very open and collaborative spaces where students can discuss ideas together and help formulate the ultimate design work they produce.  Several architecture students shared their projects with the youth and explained their 3-D modelling systems.  The youth leaders showed much interest in these 3-D models and just a few short weeks later, were invited back by Professor Cleckley and his students to enjoy a more hands-on experience.  During that second visit, the Friendship Court youth members put their creative minds to work, creating their very own 3-D models working together in the studios and getting a glimpse into the life of a UVA architecture student. They all seemed to really enjoy the hands-on experience of getting to use tools and create their own models.

Thank you to Professor Barbara Brown Wilson for her support and commitment in making sure the tour and hands-on experience happened for the youth leaders.

PHA YLT models collage

Jeanetha Brown-Douglas with JBD Mobile Catering Serving Up Nutrition and Building Community with the Kids at Friendship Court

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner singleThanks to community grants and donor support, Piedmont Housing Alliance is able to work with Jeanetha Brown-Douglas of JBD Mobile Catering to bring healthful, delicious meals to Friendship Court twice a week. This community meal schedule complements the community center afterschool activity and snack program and the Parks & Recreation enrichment program offerings. More than half of all Friendship Court residents are children (most under the age of 12). Nutrition is important to healthy development, but on an average household budget of less than $11,000, food budgets are tight. Jeanetha helps support nutrition and community building. Jeanetha also provides a great example of the creation and growth of a successful small woman-owned business. Piedmont Housing Alliance has worked with JBD Catering after Jeanetha participated in Piedmont Housing Alliance’s VIDA program, which helped her grow her savings and her business. She graduated from CIC (Community Investment Collaborative), a local business education program offering under-resourced local entrepreneurs education, micro-loans, mentoring, and networking. Since her first contract, Jeanetha has received other contracts and continues to build her catering business. She is also proud to work with the City of Charlottesville’s Onesty Family Aquatic Center (Meade Pool) to provide healthy snacks to the children and families who frequent the center over the summer months. Jeanetha says, “I love to give back to the kids!”

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner with kidsHaving an adequate meal is vital for nutrition, but it is also a way to connect Friendship Court children to community, technology, education, and health.

JBD Mobile Catering helping feed the kids a hot and healthy meal is helping lay the foundation for a successful future of Friendship Court.

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner with kids 2Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner kids 2

Youth from Friendship Court Participate in PVCC’s KidsCollege Spring Break Academies

Kids College Spring Break Academies John with girlSpring break means sometimes kids are at home searching for ways to keep themselves busy during their time off from school.  However, several third- through sixth- graders from Friendship Court stayed busy participating in a week-long Spring Break Academy offered by PVCC called 3D Terrain Explorations.

John Haverkamp, who has a background in artisanal crafts and computer software instruction for youth and adults, kept the Friendship Court kids busy for the week. The class ran from April 3-7 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. each day and taught the kids how to create a 3-D world.  The kids explored a variety of 3-D programs such as World Machine, Unity and Autodesk 123D to learn about 3-D computer terrain creations. Through a step-by-step process, the youth generated a 3-D computer walk-through in the Unity Game engine and also built real cardboard topographic dioramas of their terrain. While creating these worlds, the youth learned about the processes of geological and ecosystem simulation models. Tory Twitty, Friendship Court Activity Coordinator, was on hand to help John out.

Kids College Spring Break Academies John with group

This Academy was the result of an ongoing partnership between Piedmont Housing Alliance and PVCC KidsCollege. During the past several years, dozens of Friendship Court students have been able to take advantage of this program that PVCC offers.

Thanks to Piedmont Virginia Community College for their continued partnership and work with the Friendship Court youth who seemed to have a blast.

We also thank Verizon for their $10,000 grant in support of STEM programming which serves to close the technology gap, provide high-quality educational opportunities, improve school readiness, and build community for the families who live at Friendship Court Apartments.

Kids College Spring Break Academies kid1 Kids College Spring Break Academies kid group

Friendship Court Community Dinner Meeting Features Opportunities to Discuss Community’s Future

PHA Friendship Court Community Dinner Feb 16 2017Friendship Court residents gathered on February 16th at the community center to learn and share ideas about the future redevelopment over dinner with neighbors. Residents engaged with Piedmont Housing Alliance staff and the Grimm and Parker architectural team working on Phase 1 of the redevelopment.  Residents interacted with photos of other housing communities and answered the questions: What are your favorite things about Friendship Court? What do you want us to know about your community? Residents also talked with and gave feedback to other community partners related to City street planning and Charlottesville City Schools. A delicious dinner was provided by Afghan Kabob and Wayside Chicken. Kids got to indulge in fun photo booth activities during the night. Residents are encouraged to talk with Community Organizer Claudette Grant at the community center and to join us for quarterly community dinner meetings scheduled for May 11th, August 17th and November 16th.

PHA Friendship Court Community Dinner Feb 16 2017 2
The Friendship Court Advisory Committee continues to meet monthly. Their February meeting will include a kick-off meeting with members of recently-formed work groups focused on creating an Early Childhood Education Center and a Workforce Development Program. The Advisory Committee will also discuss ongoing resident engagement to inform physical and programmatic aspects of the redevelopment.

PHA Friendship Court Community Dinner Feb 16 2017 photo boothPHA Friendship Court Community Dinner Feb 16 2017 3

Meet Tyquan Mayo, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Tyquan Mayo Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Tyquan Mayo is one of seven Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is an important part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement in the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Tyquan, 13, is in the 8th grade at Buford Middle School.  He has a special love of hamsters and cheese sticks. He is interested in meteorology and hopes to become a meteorologist one day after possibly attending Michigan State University.  His favorite color is bright pink and he likes listening to the Beatles.  When asked where he would like to go on vacation, Tyquan said Dubai because he thinks it looks like a really beautiful place.  Tyquan says he is learning about managing money along with becoming a leader.

Tyquan was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because he wants to learn more about what is going on with the redevelopment.  He is interested in finding out what it’s going to look like, especially the green spaces.

Mark your calendars to watch Terri Allard’s, Charlottesville Inside Out on March 23rd where she features Tyquan in a segment dedicated to the work Piedmont Housing Alliance does throughout the community.

Emma Johnson, One of the First Friendship Court Residents, Looks Forward to the Redevelopment

Emma Johnson has lived in Charlottesville for a long time, mostly as a resident at Friendship Court Apartments.  Originally from Nelson County, Emma moved back to the area after living in Ohio for much of her life.  Emma said she knew she wanted to retire to this area where she spent her early years.  She decided to move to Friendship Court after her youngest daughter started college at the University of Virginia because it was affordable and new. Emma, mother to six children, moved into the community after she had been living on Anderson Street, in the 10th and Page neighborhood in Charlottesville.  At the time, Emma said they were still finishing the construction of Friendship Court. There was a church on the property where people would go for service on Sundays.  Emma said she had her own church, but sometimes she would go to the one at Friendship Court and has fond memories of it.

When she was in her early thirties, Emma came to work in Charlottesville as a textile worker, not far from Friendship Court, at the historic IX building. Emma recalls Frank Ix fondly, saying she would ask him what he planned to do after he retired.  She claims he would say simply, “Oh, I don’t know, Emma, I suppose I will just go home and do nothing.”  At the time, she says, she always knew she could talk to Mr. Ix about any troubles she had and he would help straighten things out.

Emma leads a busy lifestyle for a 90-year-old. She opens her door often to any one of her 15 grandchildren and she likes to get out and do most of her own shopping.  She enjoys reading and sewing and taking care of her home.  Emma, who has lived at Friendship Court now for close to 40 years, said she is excited about the changes to come.  “I think it’s going to be really nice. I like the idea of changes around here.” She likes the idea of being able to take an elevator up and down so she doesn’t have to take the stairs. Emma approves of the “hop-scotch” phasing approach to the redevelopment so that no one is displaced.  She says it “all sounds just great!”

The neighbors take care of Ms. Johnson at Friendship Court. She said I believe in treating people the way you want to be treated and that’s just what she does, “I am nice to people and they are nice back to me.  That’s how to be a good neighbor.  I was brought up the right way.”

Emma said she has always been treated well at Friendship Court.  Piedmont Housing Alliance looks forward to continuing to treat her well and to starting the positive changes at Friendship Court soon.

Meet Jarvis Jackson, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Jarvis Jackson Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Jarvis Jackson is one of seven Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is an important part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement in the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Jarvis, 14, is in the 9th grade at Charlottesville High School. He works at Kroger but when he is not working or at school, he likes to go to the gym to work out. He says he likes helping people. His favorite color is sky blue, usually the color he wakes up to.  Jarvis hopes to become a doctor one day.  When asked where he would like to go on vacation, Jarvis said he’s always wanted to go to Bora Bora because it seems very wonderful and because he wants to go somewhere different.  Jarvis said he is learning a lot in this program, including how to spend money properly and also how to save it.  He also says he’s learning more about how to be a team player.

Jarvis says he was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because he is interested in doing what’s right.  He enjoys getting out and meeting new people, and being a part of this team helps him get to know his community better and learn where he can contribute to it.

Meet Justin Jackson, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Justin Jackson Youth Leadership Team Friendship Cour

Justin Jackson is one of seven Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is an important part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement in the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Justin, 13, is in the 8th grade at Buford Middle School where he says there are some pretty cool teachers.  He enjoys video games and is interested in becoming a video game designer. His favorite color is violet.  When asked where he would like to go on vacation, Justin said Dubai because he thinks it looks beautiful.  Justin enjoyed getting to see the movie Hidden Figures recently with other members of the Youth Leadership Team, and he commented that the movie portrayed great examples of leadership.

Justin was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because he wants to help make the community even better than it already is.