Author Archives: Cary Oliva

Unity in the Friendship Court CommUNITY Anti-Bullying Event

Anti bully eventThe Love No Ego Group, LLC, in collaboration with Piedmont Housing Alliance, Friendship Court Community, Portico Church, Impact My Life Mentoring, LLC, and the Bridge Ministry came together on Friday, September 15 to present a much-needed motivational speaker event called Unity in Friendship Court CommUNITY.  Kids and several adults packed into the community center to hear two speakers, Freddy Jackson and Jay James share their own inspirational life experiences.

30% of U.S. students in grades six through ten are involved in moderate or frequent bullying as bullies, victims, or both, according to the results of the first national school bullying statistics and cyberbullying statistics survey. “This topic is important, very timely for the community”, said Friendship Court Community Organizer, Claudette Grant.

Freddy Jackson is the founder and president of The Love No Ego Group, LLC, an organization empowering youth through motivational speaking. It focuses on the suppression of all egotistical behaviors, while recognizing and uplifting the greatness within, and promoting honest and genuine self-reflection that allows positive and effective communication to happen. “Every person is meant to be awesome, especially our youth. That’s where it all starts. And my job is to get them to do a bit of self-reflection, and have them realize on their own exactly where they are living and operating from. Is it from a place of love or is it from a place of ego?” Freddy said.

Jay James anti bully eventJay James, assistant director of The Bridge Ministry, discussed the power of forgiving and explained how negative things happen in life, but that they should never stop you from living the best life possible. Jay encouraged the youth to do the same because he said, “there will be a time in their lives when something will not go as they would like it to, but they have to choose to make good out of a bad situation.” The Bridge Ministry works to transform the lives of troubled men and their families through a faith-based program grounded in Christianity, providing mentoring, skills, and relationships to “bridge” the gap from bondage to productive community and family life.  As Jay concluded his talk, he encouraged the kids to use a positive mantra for themselves, something like the famous lyrics of musical artist DJ Khaled, “Nothing can stop me! I’m all the way up!”

Break dancers

Some of the children recited poetry and displayed artwork focused on anti-bullying and the group enjoyed a breakdance presentation, thanks to dancers from Portico Church. Pastor Desmond Glenn from Portico Church collaborated in the organization of the event to help make it an inspirational evening.

Anti bully event reciting

 

Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Crozet Meadows/Meadowlands Apartments and Friendship Court Apartments Benefit from the 26th Annual United Way Day of Caring

Inside the colorful community center at Friendship Court, a team of volunteers got on their hands and knees and scrubbed down floors and windows to make the center shine as a vibrant, welcoming place for children and teens to hang out each day after school.

On Wednesday, September 20, 2017 nearly 2,000 people participated in the United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring taking place at about 100 non-profits and schools throughout the Charlottesville area, including a clean-up project at Friendship Court and raised garden bed building at Crozet Meadows/Meadowlands Apartments.

Eight employees from Jefferson Scholars Foundation gathered early in the morning outside the Friendship Court Community Center where Claudette Grant, community organizer, shared what needed to be done to help spruce up the center.  The team spent the morning as well as part of the afternoon scrubbing the walls, floors, and windows of the center until they were spotless, doing the kind of deep cleaning that never happens often enough. Others canvassed the grounds of Friendship Court, picking up trash to beautify the community space.

United Way Day of Caring Friendship Court

United Way Day of Caring Friendship Court

Robbyn Minnis, one of the volunteers from Jefferson Scholars Foundation said, “I’ve participated in the Day of Caring four or five times now, which I personally think is just a great way to give back to the community as well as being a great team building experience.  Everyone was really excited to be participating in such an event which is in line with the values of our foundation.”

 

 

Lauren volunteering at United Way Day of Caring CrozetIn Crozet, four more volunteers from PRA Health Sciences were carrying large 6×6 posts to form raised garden beds for the Crozet Meadows/Meadowlands Apartment communities. Despite the heat of the day, they measured and drilled holes with Maintenance Technician, Nathan Smoot and Chief Operating Officer, Karen Reifenberger. By the end of the afternoon, they had built two beautiful raised garden beds, fulfilling residents’ interest in having a place to gather to garden and build community. Crozet Meadows and the Meadowlands Apartments provide 96 affordable homes to low-income seniors. PRA Health Science employee Lauren Haberland said, “We so enjoyed our day with Karen and Nathan, and we cannot wait to see the garden bed full of fresh veggies!”United Way Day of Caring Crozet Meadows

Crozet Meadows United Way Day of Caring

Day of Caring Coordinator, Megan Borishansky added, “I feel fortunate to be part of such a caring community, and to have the opportunity to play a role in bringing people together for a constructive cause. The Day of Caring honors the individuals volunteering their time, helps them build relationships as teams, and connects them with the missions of non-profits and schools that they might not come into contact with otherwise. This is what I love about the Day: each project serves as a piece of the greater puzzle dedicated to building community and honoring the best in each other.”

The United Way Day of Caring in the Charlottesville area was established in 1992 by the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area to promote the spirit and value of volunteerism, increase the awareness of local human service agencies and schools, and demonstrate what people working together for the community’s good can accomplish.

Portico Church and Piedmont Housing Alliance Sponsor 3rd Annual Love the Court Event at Friendship Court

Kids and adults came out for the 3rd Annual “Love the Court” community event at Friendship Court on Wednesday, August 9. The successful event, sponsored by Portico Church and Piedmont Housing Alliance, is a way to bring together people from the community to enjoy a night of fun before kids get ready to go back to school.Studio 360

Several partners like the City of Charlottesville and PVCC’s adult career and education center were there to spread the word about programs in the community with the residents of Friendship Court. Several local barbershops, like Studio 360 and A Cut Above the Rest, were on site to offer free haircuts to kids. Leslie Brown of LLC Hair Studios was also on hand to provide styling services.  Food was flowing and kids were bouncing from the dunking station, to the face painting, back to the basketball court, and to the bounce house. Desmond and ClaudetteBig KahunaDesmond Glenn, Pastor of Community & Discipleship at Portico, said their goal is to keep bringing people together.  “It’s all about creating relationships and loving our neighbors. We also try to make sure we are proactively seeking racial reconciliation,” Desmond says.

Each year, the event seems to bring more and more people together.  Multi cultural photo

 

For more information, see www.porticocville.org. Coverage by CBS19 news

 

Friendship Court Youth Participate in PVCC’s Summer KidsCollege

Musahar Ali enjoys sculpting during the Sculpey Clay Creations workshop

During summer break, kids and parents look for ways kids to keep busy and their minds stimulated.  That is why PVCC offers KidsCollege, with over 100 enriching, fun, and educational hands-on morning and afternoon STEM and arts workshops.  This July, several fourth- and fifth- graders from Friendship Court stayed busy participating in three different week-long Summer Academies offered by PVCC called Minecraft Designers Academy, Sculpey Clay Creations Academy, and Drones: Flying, Exploration, & Competition Academy.

Zanijsha Rodgers having fun designing games

Edwin Perkins participates in the Drones: Flying, Exploration, & Competition Academy

All of the classes ran the week of July 24th from 1:00-4:15 p.m. each day. Jessica Eldridge, Friendship Court community center coordinator said, “It’s wonderful that PVCC has created this great opportunity for community students. The academies have taught the kids to build drones, design Minecraft worlds, and to sculpt clay into figures from their imagination. Not only does it teach them about the different sides of science by allowing them the hands-on experience, but it also gives them visual insight into the world of post-secondary education. I think that is very important to experience as a young person. This program is of great benefit to the lives of our students, and I hope KidsCollege@PVCC will continue to grow.”

Adam Glymph is one of the instructors of Minecraft Designers Academy

This Academy was the result of an ongoing partnership between Piedmont Housing Alliance and PVCC KidsCollege, with funding support from Verizon. During the past few years, dozens of Friendship Court students have been able to take advantage of this PVCC program that offers unique, high-quality educational experiences.

 

Keeping Kids Fed All Summer Long

One in six kids in Virginia struggles with hunger. During the summer, kids who rely on school-provided meals may not have access to food during the day. That’s why, at Friendship Court, where all kids qualify for free and reduced lunch programs at school, we’re providing breakfast, lunch and a snack to residents aged two to 18. In addition, thanks to the generosity, of Myrtle Houchens, a community leader and former Friendship Court resident,  for three weeks of the summer, an evening meal is available Monday through Thursday. For several years, Ms. Houchens has been preparing meals during a portion of the summer to help bridge the gap for nutritious meals during the summer. We are grateful for Ms. Houchens’ commitment and dedication to the children in Friendship Court and for the resources given by Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

Myrtle Houchens

“Growing kids are always hungry,” said Claudette Grant, Friendship Court community organizer. It’s great to be able to provide programs at the community center to keep them busy and the nutritious meals keep them fueled.

Resources for some of the meals are provided through USDA and the Virginia Department of Health, along with generous donations from our local community. Your donation can help fill the gap so no kid goes hungry during the summer, or at any time during the school year. Give today, and help us feed the kids of Friendship Court.

Youth Leadership Team Members Participate in UVa Ecological Democracy Class to Develop Solutions in the Friendship Court Redevelopment Process

Youth Leadership Team Ecological DemocracySeven eager members of the Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team (YLT) spent the spring semester engaging with UVa students in a class at the UVa School of Architecture called Ecological Democracy. The term ecological democracy was originally coined by Professor Randolph T. Hester from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California at Berkeley. Its main tenet is that community resilience “can be built through direct contact with the social and ecological processes that impact the built world, and that communities are stronger when co-powered to drive decision-making processes themselves.” Addy, Daemond, Emilee, Jarvis, Javisha, Justin, and Tyquan are the YLT members who are beginning to engage in decision-making regarding their community through this process.

The Ecological Democracy course was developed and led by Barbara Brown-Wilson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia, with master plan design team member Liz Ogbu as a visiting professor. Several graduate students also planned biweekly dialogues with the YLT members. The dialogues began as an exercise to get to know and trust each other and evolved to in-depth discussions and planning to address potential “opportunity areas” for improvement within the Friendship Court community.

The dialogue groups met once or twice a week, usually at UVa.

Katie Deal was a participating student whose interdisciplinary major focused on public and private partnerships that develop equitable models for affordable housing. “In order to develop solutions that fit the community, you need to talk to the stakeholders first to really understand what their day-to-day life is like,” Katie said. “We knew that we could do this with the Youth Leadership Team to learn best practices for human-centered design.”

Youth Leadership Team with students discussing

Human-centered design should ultimately create solutions that work well for everyone involved in the process, and should provide opportunities for those being directly impacted by the design to express their perspective and concerns. This type of design takes longer than the traditional design process and requires flexibility from all parties involved.

The students discussed design challenges, potential areas for improvement, and possible design solutions. The workshops included mapping exercises and brainstorming sessions along with intuitive design tools to visualize possibilities and to stimulate conversation and creativity as the students were asked to reflect on the design and evaluation process.

Through these exercises, the youth came to recognize the opportunity areas in their community. They identified five potential projects in the collaborative design workshops and narrowed those down to two through feedback and a vote. Through several design brainstorming sessions independently led by the UVa students in collaboration with the YLT members, these two opportunity areas were then developed into potential quick-win design solutions.

Youth Leadership Team class participatingOver the four months of collaborative effort, the group came up with both short-term and long-term quick-win goals designed to solve each problem identified by the YLT members. Some of the ideas included:

  • Creating a space for relaxation and community gathering, which could include benches and planters around the courtyards
  • Improving the basketball court area
  • Making enhancements to the fence, including opening of the gates all the time, beautifying the area if the fences are not taken down and ultimately taking down the fence

The quick wins are important elements of the redevelopment process as they help provide the youth with a sense of excitement and more immediate visible accomplishments during the longer redevelopment process. In addition, these wins teach them how to use basic strategies and tools to continue community improvement and support into the future. To read more about all the quick-win opportunities and the class, see the course evaluation put together by the students at the end of the class.

This collaboration between the youth at Friendship Court and the faculty and students at the University of Virginia is helping create a supportive platform for improving the quality of life of residents during the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The partnership and leadership program started in 2016 and will continue through 2018. The Youth Leadership Team is designed to involve the youth through mentorship, resources, and coordination. In addition to their sustainable land-use curriculum, the youth have participated in financial management courses, resume writing workshops, interview preparation sessions, and field trips.

We look forward to hearing more throughout the redevelopment process from the Youth Leadership Team about their role in helping create a more inclusive and improved community at Friendship Court.

Youth Leadership Team class

 

Friendship Court Resident Angela Brooks Becomes Newest Member of the Advisory Committee

Angela Brooks

Angela Brooks is a young mom with two teenaged sons. Friendship Court has been her home for more than fifteen years, and she’s seen a lot of changes in that time. “It’s definitely gotten better,” she says, “but there’s room for improvement.” That’s why Angela joined two committees focused on staying informed and providing input throughout redevelopment. An active member of the Residents’ Association, Angela volunteered to join the Advisory Committee as well. “I want to see what’s going on and stay informed. I want all the residents to be treated equally. I can help reassure other people in the neighborhood if I’m getting information firsthand instead of second- or third-hand.”

Angela works as a teacher of two-and-a-half to three-year-old children at Park Street Christian Preschool by day and cleans office buildings at night, leaving her little free time. It is noteworthy, then, that Angela chooses to spend some of that time attending meetings and making connections with community stakeholders involved in Friendship Court’s redevelopment.

“I think redevelopment is going to help the community be a friendlier, calmer place and a good place to call home. I’m looking forward to all the improvements to the apartments,” she said.

We’re delighted to have another long-term Friendship Court resident contributing to the redevelopment conversation. Welcome, Angela!

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