Category Archives: In the News

Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team Takes Trip to Washington, D.C.

YLT outside AA museum

The Youth Leadership Team and team leaders outside the National Museum of African American History and Culture

For two days in June, the seven members of the Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team toured our nation’s capital with several adult leaders to study urban design, architecture, and community engagement. It was the culmination of a two-year program of civic education to help empower them to be active contributors to Friendship Court’s redevelopment plan. The trip was funded by a grant given to Piedmont Housing Alliance by the Society of Architectural Historians stewarded by board members and UVA Architecture School Professors, Beth Meyer and Barbara Brown Wilson.

The grant, in the amount of $4,990, enabled the team to visit many sites in DC on June 19 and 20. They traveled to Union Station by train early Tuesday morning and enjoyed lunch there along with observing the interior architecture of the building before meeting with Equitable Development Manager, Vaughn Perry to discuss the 11th Street Bridge Park project. Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor of environmental planning at the University of Virginia who traveled with the group said, “This has been a two-year program where we’ve all been learning about communities and leadership. Watching some of our recent middle school graduates asking really hard and important questions at the 11th Street Bridge Project just shows their level of sophistication.”  Ty’Quan Mayo asked, “Are they really going to build the 11th Street Bridge?” To which Vaughn Perry answered, “Yes, it better get built. We have worked too hard for this.” Observations and questions were also shared regarding the safety of the space and how emergency vehicles would access the site if needed.

Vice President of Development, Matthew Steenhoek, discusses the District Wharf project, Photo credit Peter Krebs

In the afternoon, the group met with Matthew Steenhoek, who works with PN Hoffman, the developers of DC’s District Wharf, a multi-phased, sustainable, mixed-use project. At the Wharf, they were able to observe an architectural model of the new development along the Potomac River and hear a brief discussion about urban planning and design of buildings and public spaces.  After the discussion, the youth were able to tour the Wharf and see the actual public spaces that were viewed on the architectural model.

Beth Meyer addresses the group inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Emilee and Addi

Emilee and Addi during lunch break at the museum

On day two, the youth members were given a special tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture before its usual opening time at 10 in the morning.  The group was given a chance to walk through the expansive museum to learn about our nation’s history and racial inequality.  Youth leadership team member Daemond Nowlin said, “I enjoyed reflecting on the past and learning more about my ancestors.”  After the visit to the museum, the group congregated on the grassy hill near the Washington Monument and listened to Landscape Architect Professor Beth Meyer speak about the design of public spaces and the structural relationships between other adjacent public buildings, such as the Capitol Building, Washington Monument and the White House.

Beth addressing group by the Monument

Beth Meyer addressing the group near the National Monument

In the afternoon, the youth visited a housing development called SeVerna on K, which was completed in 2013 by Grimm + Parker Architects which are also the architects designing the Friendship Court redevelopment. The mixed-style and mixed-income housing complexes are located in the heart of NoMA, a vibrant, multi-generational community, and is a great example of a similar project to that of Friendship Court. Lead architect, Mel Thompson, spoke to the team about the history of the site, after the unsuccessful management of a previous housing development on the site and how now, many displaced residents have returned to the neighborhood, which includes many new amenities, access to transit, and proximity to new schools, a library and a recreation center.  The youth were filled with energy while they walked around the SeVerna on K, a project very similar to the envisioned future of Friendship Court.

Mel Thompson, lead architect, explaining some of the features of the SeVerna on K

Having the opportunity to tour a couple of apartment units and walk through the building and its amenities gave the youth team a feeling of excitement and possibility for what the future Friendship Court might feel like. The tour ended with the youth soaking in the view from the rooftop terrace. It was a wonderful way to end the two-day trip.

Thanks to all the leaders and chaperones on this trip to include, Claudette Grant, community organizer for Friendship Court, Beth Meyer, landscape architecture professor at the School of Architecture and Piedmont Housing Alliance board member, Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor at the School of Architecture and Piedmont Housing Alliance board vice president as well as Margaret Haltom, recent UVA graduate and Peter Krebs, community outreach coordinator with Piedmont Environmental Council.

The program is equipping resident youth leaders with valuable skills, experiences, and networks to both provide input for the redevelopment and to create educational and career opportunities. Piedmont Housing Alliance remains committed to helping the Youth Leadership Team effectively provide input for the redevelopment of their community.  _______________________________________________________

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

 

 

The Spring 2018 Update on the Friendship Court Redevelopment

For the last 40 years, Friendship Court has been a place to call home for hundreds of families. For some, the community has been a vital stepping stone, a refuge during times of financial crisis or the first step towards self-determination. For others, especially families or individuals who depend on small, fixed incomes such as disability or social security, Friendship Court has been, and will likely continue to be, a lasting home. At the same time, some families who arrive at Friendship Court hoping for stability become entangled in the veiled web of systemic hurdles that make it so difficult for anyone to fracture generational cycles of poverty.

Nevertheless, for all the families who have called the community home over the last four decades, and for the rest of us who recognize the necessity of supporting our neighbors and families during periods of vulnerability, Friendship Court has provided critical civic infrastructure that benefits all of us – the entire community of Charlottesville.

So why are we redeveloping Friendship Court? We are doing so because it is time. It’s time to replace the 40-year old buildings that are approaching the end of their useful life. It’s time to rewrite the stigma of economic and social isolation. It’s time to engage the residents with earnest transparency and committed partnership. Though redevelopment alone can’t redress the full history of structural racism and other systemized inequities, the work of redevelopment will continue to be fundamentally rooted in bending the arc of the future.

Courtyard conversationsOver the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more details of the work we’ve accomplished so far in partnership with the residents. The focus of our work over recent months has been taking the early master plan that was released in late 2016 and listening to the community, collecting the emerging comments and concerns. In partnership with an amazing design team, inclusive of residents and community advocates on the Advisory Committee (who we’ll share more about in a future post), we have been hard at work refining the plan to address critical issues.

How many new apartments should be built? What types of housing will be built? Where will the open and green spaces be located and what character will they take? What will the income mix of future residents be? How does a new, reconnected neighborhood get built while also retaining the existent sense of culture and place? How will the redevelopment balance zero displacement while minimizing the overall timeline? How do we maintain a positive quality of life during each phase of construction?

As we begin to unveil this resident-led work, you will see a site framework that reconciles these difficult questions remarkably well. While we know a great deal of complex work and difficult decisions remain in front of us, we have built a thoughtful foundation that will lead us all, the entire community of Charlottesville, towards a more equitable and accountable future.

Visit www.friendshipcourtapartments.com to learn more and follow the community’s progress by subscribing to e-news updates.

 

CHiP Neighborhood Outreach Stays Busy Helping Families with Their Health Improvement Program

Ciera, Family Support Worker does a home visit

Ciera, Family Support Worker does a home visit

Piedmont Housing Alliance connects with several area nonprofits to bring enriching support to the people we serve. CHiP is one of those partners, providing services to children and families throughout the area, including Friendship Court.

On any given day, you are likely to see a member of the CHiP Neighborhood Outreach team in a downtown neighborhood – visiting families at home, attending community events, or facilitating groups for teens and/or parents with young children.  Nurse Jessica might be checking in on a new mom to see how mom and baby are doing at home and answer questions about breast-feeding or how to know when to call the doctor. Naasira, one of the team’s family support workers, might be visiting a family with a busy toddler, bringing ideas for age-appropriate activities that can be created from simple household items.

Torri, Neighborhood Outreach Project Coordinator. Naasira, Family Support Worker and Regina, Community Health Educator help at market day in Friendship Court, photo credit Kayli Wren of Charlottesville Tomorrow

Torri, Neighborhood Outreach Project Coordinator. Naasira, Family Support Worker and Regina, Community Health Educator help at market day in Friendship Court, photo credit Kayli Wren of Charlottesville Tomorrow

CHiP is the Children’s Health Improvement Program.  Their mission is to partner with families to create nurturing home environments and promote the health and well-being of children in our community.  The CHiP program is completely voluntary and designed to serve families with children age 0-6.

Through home visits, CHIP works with children and parents in their own environment, eliminating the need to find transportation or childcare.  Home visits allow the entire family to participate. Meeting families where they live in those critical early years of a child’s life has proven to be the most effective model for helping kids grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in school and in life.

CHiP’s dedicated teams of community health nurses and professional family support workers meet with families to:

·        Promote family health and well-being through health assessments, health education, and facilitating access to health care.

·        Enhance parenting skills and confidence through a developmentally appropriate curriculum and building nurturing relationships.

·        Foster self-sufficiency by partnering with families to set goals, solve problems, and connect with community resources.

In light of the challenges our community faced in 2017, CHiP recognized that a distrust of systems and institutions are a barrier to health and well-being and contributes to racial disparities in care and health outcomes. Thanks to a grant from the Adiuvans Foundation, CHiP launched the Neighborhood Outreach Project, placing a team downtown dedicated to serving historically African American neighborhoods. In addition to the nurse/family support worker team, three part-time health educators were hired from within the community, all with the goal of building relationships and being a trusted neighborhood resource.

Teen Outreach and Neighborhood Outreach Project Coordinator, Torri Ayers, says, “We want to help parents be the best they can be, but it takes time for them to trust us. So we just keep showing up, without judgment, as a friendly, helpful neighbor.”

Bubble wands activity at Westhaven

Bubble wands activity at Westhaven

Torri has also been co-facilitating the girls group, Sisters of Nia, with City of Promise, and has started two more girls groups in Greenstone and Friendship Court. While CHiP’s Parenteen program provides unique support for pregnant and parenting teens, Torri’s work with pre-teen and teen girls is designed for prevention and long-term impact.  “I want to help these girls think differently, to expose them to new ideas and experiences so they can expand their imagination, hopes, and dreams for themselves and their family.”

 

CHiP means children’s health. If you want to learn more about CHiP or how to enroll in the program, visit www.jachip.org or call: 434-964-4700.

 

ReadySteps from ReadyKids, An Important Partner at Friendship Court and Beyond

Piedmont Housing Alliance partners with several area nonprofits to bring enriching support to our client families. ReadyKids is one of those partners, providing services to children who live in Piedmont Housing Alliance supported housing, such as Friendship Court. We asked Shannon Banks, program manager for ReadySteps to share information with us about the program, and what ReadyKids provides the children at Friendship Court.

The ReadySteps Program at ReadyKids
By Shannon Banks, ReadySteps Program Manager

Every Tuesday morning, kids ages zero to five and their parents bounce into the Friendship Court Community Center ready for two hours of fun with the ReadySteps program at ReadyKids. The ReadySteps program takes a family-centered, holistic approach to school readiness, and supports the entire family to be ready for school. We support kids to develop the skills they need to enter school ready to learn, and we empower parents by equipping them with the skills and knowledge to support their child’s growth and development. In addition, we work to connect families to the resources they need to reach their goals, and help them to identify and address concerns.

How does ReadySteps Help Kids?

When our kids aren’t ready with the tools they need to succeed, they fail or fall behind. When our parents aren’t ready with the tools they need to succeed, it is much more difficult for them to support their children. We know that kids who participate in high quality early childhood education programs enter school better prepared and are more successful than their peers who have not had those opportunities. We know that having a primary caregiver with whom they have a strong, positive and nurturing relationship is critical to kids’ optimal growth and development. And we also know that when caregivers are supported to understand how their child is growing and developing, build relationships with neighbors, and are able to access to community resources, they are better equipped to make choices and decisions that help propel their kids to success.

What happens during a ReadySteps Playgroup?

Through play kids learn about how the world and its people work. Jen Fenerty (Group Leader), Margot Pleasants (Educator), and Laura Somel (Family Coordinator), design and facilitate activities aimed at supporting child and adult growth in all areas of their life. Circle time offers the opportunity to come together and work as a group, and to practice taking turns and following directions. Stations with different educational activities allow kids the opportunity to make a choice, and decide what they want to do and how they want to do it, within the established limits and boundaries of playgroup.  They also provide parents the opportunity to follow their child’s lead, and become engrossed in play. Activities such as these, and many more, provide the foundation for learning basic math and literacy skills, such as counting and letter recognition.

How does ReadySteps Help Parents?

Our parent support and education activities give parents the opportunity to shine as the expert on their kids, learn new skills, and give feedback on the program. We collaborate with other programs and agencies including the Healthy Families Program, Women’s Initiative, PB&J Fund, Infant and Toddler Connection of the Blue Ridge, Charlottesville City Schools, and CHiP to provide information and services to empower parents. We also host a monthly Parent Advisory Committee, complete developmental screenings, and share helpful parenting information and ways to extend the playgroup learning experience at home. Kids do not come with an instruction manual, and everyone needs someone to support and encourage them.  ReadySteps works to do just that.

How do I get involved?

The ReadySteps program is free, and all parents or caregivers and their kids ages birth to age 5 years are welcome to join us. Our next playgroup is Tuesday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m.!

Girls at Friendship Court Benefit from Girls’ Mentoring Program

Mentoring

Each week, approximately eight to 10 girls from the Friendship Court community come together at the community center for an after-school mentoring program taught by Community Center Coordinator, Jessica Eldridge. Jessica, the founder of Impact My Life Mentoring, LLC says, “I believe even the slightest positive influence has the potential to change a child’s life.”

Starting in the fall of 2017 Jessica has led the girls in empowering activities and discussions about what it means to have self-confidence and self-esteem. During one of their discussions, the girls talked about how to distinguish between a friend and a frenemy (someone who acts as a friend, but when not around you, they do unfriendly things behind your back).

Girls mentoring

During another activity, the girls went outside and took five pictures of themselves, or five selfies, to create a group selfie art gallery. Then the girls wrote down a compliment about themselves on each picture. This small gesture allowed them time to think about who they are and how they are important, finding something to celebrate about themselves and share with others. On Diamond Keyes’ picture she wrote, “I like myself because I have a good personality and I am pretty, and I won’t think differently.”

Galentine's 4

Galentine's 1In January, the girls focused on New Year’s resolutions and what they hope to accomplish in the New Year.  Many of them talked about how they hope to do well in their next quarter of school and how they want to work towards getting good grades.  Then, in February, they celebrated “Galentine’s Day,” an unofficial holiday held on the day before Valentine’s Day in which ladies, young and old, celebrate themselves and others. In that session, they discussed the importance of making and having good friends as well as what types of characteristics they like to find in a good friend. They discussed positive qualities about themselves and how it felt when they looked in the mirror. Then the girls designed their own personal mirrors with paint, glitter, and stickers and enjoyed a meal together.

Jefferson Area CHIP has been partnering with the group as well. Their mission is to partner with families to create nurturing home environments and promote the health and well-being of children in our community.  Jessica says the girls have been enjoying their insight into their discussions and it also allows them room to interact with different people whom they’ve never met before – adults and young girls alike.

Jessica says, “The goal in teaching this program is for the girls to create a space that is all their own where they are free to express themselves in the way that they want without judgement from other people.”

She added that she has had some very proud moments so far with the girls and that she hopes to keep up the mentoring sessions for the foreseeable future.

 

 

ACAC Coordinates Holiday Gift Drive for Friendship Court Families

Thanks to the ACAC Downtown team and community, families at Friendship Court received gifts through a special drive organized by the neighboring athletic center to help bring joy to the neighborhood children. “ACAC has been a wonderful community partner in making sure many of the children and families who live at Friendship Court are able to enjoy Christmas in a special way,” said Claudette Grant, Friendship Court community organizer.

As one mother said, “ACAC outdid themselves this year. My children received so many amazing gifts. We are set for several months because of the generosity of this community.”  The gifts are much appreciated. For many of the Friendship Court families, Christmas would be difficult without the generosity and support of ACAC Downtown. The staff and patrons of ACAC not only give so freely of their time to make sure this event happens every Christmas, but they take the act of giving to a higher level. On several occasions, members of the athletic center checked in with staff to make sure families in need received the items requested or would have enough assistance to put together certain toys. “It is nice to know we have so many angels in our community who make sure Christmas is joyous for several happy little ones,” said Claudette.

Thanks to Paul Kyriacopoulos, assistant general manager, who with his team, organize and deliver hundreds of gifts for Friendship Court residents each December. Thanks ACAC community!

 

Fall Festival at Friendship Court

festival-2

On Saturday, October 7, Friendship Court residents gathered for a Fall Festival and enjoyed spending time together and with surrounding neighbors.  Kids played, got their faces painted, and jumped in the bounce house while adults enjoyed music, raffles, and a variety of foods.

festival-4 festival-12Piedmont Housing Alliance staff engaged with residents, asking for their preferred way to receive information and updates and to communicate opinions and ideas, as planning for redevelopment continues. Good Neighbor Appreciation nominations were received from residents, and these people will be recognized in the upcoming Friendship Court newsletter. Residents got to speak with Piedmont Housing Alliance staff about programs and activities at the community center, including programming for children and youth, financial education sessions, and employment opportunities. Residents also got to speak with Velvet Coleman from the City of Charlottesville who is excited about her new role as Parent Connections for Preschool through 2nd grades for the elementary schools of Charlottesville. Velvet provided kids with fun school supplies.festival-21

A delicious dinner was provided by Afghan Kabob and Mel’s Cafe. Thanks to all the other partners who helped make this possible, including Cindy Pollard of Transformations (face painting), Superfun Attractions with the Yanceys (bounce house), Coria RVA (DJ), the Party Starts Here, Virginia Tent Rental, Eze Amos (photography) and Charlottesville City Schools.  A special thanks to the residents who provide ongoing guidance and leadership in the community on the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, the Youth Leadership Team, and in other roles.

Project Manager Beth Kennan said, “It was great to see so many families enjoying the Fall Festival with their neighbors. We are so fortunate to be working with this wonderful community towards improved housing and economic opportunities.”
festival-13

Piedmont Housing Alliance sponsors community dinners and events several times each year, in addition to ongoing programs and activities at the community center.  To stay connected to happenings in the community, see the monthly newsletters on the Friendship Court website at www.friendshipcourtapartments.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FriendshipCourt/.

Happy Fall!

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

 

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.