If you visit the Friendship Court Community Center on
Thursdays, you may be greeted by the sound of drumming and joyous laughter and
Saman Dashti, also known as Macaco Nova York, makes it a
point to volunteer at Friendship Court once a week in some capacity, not an
easy commitment because he travels regularly and is also a Capoeira enthusiast
and instructor. Dashti discovered the Friendship Court community when he first
moved to Charlottesville with his wife. “I moved here and figured out what was
going on and came here [to volunteer],” he said.
Dashti said he was surprised back then that there were not more groups and individuals volunteering their time and talents at Friendship Court, but said that he thinks that with the redevelopment others will want to come to the community.
Naylia was one attendee, of about seven participants, at a recent session and said she comes every week that Dashti is present because it is fun. When asked what kind of music she likes she said hip hop and “the music we make.”
Dashti’s program consist of drumming, education on beats and
rhythms and movement. On this particular day, he mentioned that Ms. Sheri, Piedmont
Housing Alliance’s Community Outreach Assistant (and resident member of the
Friendship Court Advisory Committee), will be making new shields used in a
dance with the youth.
Dashti recognizes the importance of afrocentric programs in
predominately black communities and touts them as motivation for kids living
there. While emphasis is often put on athletic and STEM programs, he is
furthering the arts as a means to an end to introduce kids to themselves and
the music they can make themselves.
After drumming, kids and their families can enjoy warm meals
provided for the community on Tuesdays and Thursdays by Piedmont Housing
Alliance, catered by JBD Mobile Catering.
Friendship Court residents can learn more about
this and other programs by contacting Claudette Grant at 434-422-4846.
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.
Beth Kennan, a Charlottesville native, is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s project manager for the redevelopment of Friendship Court. Beth comes to Piedmont Housing Alliance with over 10 years of real estate project development and construction management experience. She earned a Masters of Professional Studies in Real Estate from Georgetown University and has overseen projects totaling more than 920,000 square feet. Beth plays a central role in moving the redevelopment plan forward, working with residents, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, community stakeholders, engineers, and architects.
Beth’s current focus is on the important predevelopment work (civil engineering, legal, and preliminary architectural work) necessary to gain site plan approval for the first phase of redevelopment, which is funded by a substantial grant from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).
One of the exciting features of the redevelopment plan incorporates an early education center at Friendship Court. In September, Beth organized a tour for of two innovative early childhood centers in Virginia, The New E3 School in Norfolk and the Weinstein JCC School in Richmond. This gave members of the board, the advisory committee, and other community partners an opportunity to experience and learn about other successful centers in the region. Another tour of early childhood centers in southwest Virginia is being planned for January.
Beth is a member of the Urban Land Institute and is keenly interested in the redevelopment and the positive effects she believes it will bring to the urban landscape in Charlottesville’s downtown. She continues to stay involved with other community organizations. When asked about the project, she said, “Most importantly, you have to work as team in any community partnership and value everyone’s opinion. No one is better than anyone else. Everyone has something to bring to the table and you have to value that.”
The master plan is complete and will be available to the public in January.
Toni Eubanks is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s new Youth Leadership Program Coordinator at Friendship Court. Toni’s specific role will be working with Claudette Grant, Community Organizer, to help recruit for, plan, schedule and implement activities, including events, meeting and field trips for the Youth Leadership Program for the redevelopment of Friendship Court. Toni has experience working with kids through her work at Sojourners Church where she has been the Nursery Director for almost 3 years. Toni is currently working on getting her associate’s degree taking online classes at PVCC. Toni brings energy and experience to her role and says “I’m looking forward to pushing students towards an innovative and broader way of thinking.”
Tory Twitty is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s new Activity Coordinator at Friendship Court. Tory’s specific role will be to coordinate children’s afterschool activities and resident engagement which will have him working closely with Friendship Court Community Organizer, Claudette Grant as well as residents and other staff and volunteers at the Community Center. Tory has experience working with youth at a camp where his focus was basketball and boxing. He currently mentors kids through a special program that he and his friends named Brothers’ Keepers. Started in 2009, Tory and other young men meet with high school kids and provide them with activities and mentorship. Tory calls Louisa home, and when not doing other things, he likes to spend most of his free time boxing. “I’m looking forward to making an impact in kids’ lives”, says Tory.