Category Archives: Uncategorized

When the shoe is on the other foot

I have been asking questions for more than 30 years. I know a good answer when I hear one. Now I know what it’s like to be on the other end of that process.

VoyagePhoenix was kind of enough to share my story of founding JDD Specialties. It was a fun Q&A and an honor to be included in the online magazine’s popular “Phoenix’s Most Inspiring Stories” feature.

Here’s a link to the article posted on Oct. 19: Meet Jennifer Dokes of JDD Specialties 

 

 

 

 

LISC, Kiva help local shop owners gain critical access to capital

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the LISC Phoenix website.)

Perodin Bideri, a west Phoenix shop owner who was raised in refugee camps in Tanzania, and Christy Moore, a veteran Valley nonprofit executive who is on a mission to disrupt the landromat industry, are in the same boat.

Both are seeing things — opportunities, specifically. Both have a brand of ambition that’s engaging and inspiring; it invites participation.

And both are navigating waves of success that often come with access to capital made possible through a partnership with nonprofits LISC and Kiva, an online crowdfunding platform. For as little as $25, a lender can join a fund that allows borrowers to receive loans of up to $10,000.

Access to capital is a major hurdle for emerging small-business owners. They don’t qualify for credit from traditional lenders. If they do secure loans, they come with high interest rates and fees.

With a Kiva loan, borrowers pay zero interest and no fees. That got the attention of Bideri, owner of B&R African Styles.

“When I was introduced to Kiva, it was a great opportunity to open doors that grow my business,” Bideri said. “To get a loan with zero interest? I was in.”

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Rusty Foley is an ‘Arts Hero’ and a bad chick

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing nearly two dozen people in the Valley and southern Arizona for the On Media Publications Arts Hero project. It’s been a labor of love during the past few months because I’ve met some of the coolest people doing amazing, righteous things for our communities.

Most of the honorees are new to me. But Rusty Foley, the Phoenix Arts Hero for January, is very familiar. She built a legacy long before she put her talent and energy into Arizona Citizens for the Arts. I knew her first as a very good journalist and then as a community mover-shaker while at SRP.

You can call Rusty a hero. I call her a bad chick. Not many people hold that high status in my book.

 

Camelback Pointe combines Housing First model with transit-oriented development

(This article is part of a LISC Phoenix series, “Communities on the LIne.” Photo by Mark Lipczynski Photography.) 

For city, state, and federal housing leaders, Camelback Pointe is part of a regional effort to end chronic homelessness. The 54-unit apartment complex has a single-person focus and on-site case managers and resident service specialists to address an array of needs.

For developer Native American Connections (NAC), the $13 million complex in the West Camelback Road commercial corridor represents an evolution of its groundbreaking permanent supportive housing work, combining the Housing First service model with transit-oriented development principles.

For urban renewal advocates, Camelback Pointe, a LEED Platinum certified development, is an example of converting a nuisance property into an architecturally clean community asset. It replaces an abandoned fast food restaurant site that had become a problem property, and now has an engaging, neighborhood-focused owner (NAC) who will have a 24/7 presence at the secure-community site.

But for its new residents, Camelback Pointe is simply and powerfully one thing: Home.

Andrea Hipps, NAC affordable housing specialist, said Camelback Pointe is not temporary or transitional housing. It is designed and programmed to meet chronically homeless individuals’ needs, both basic and complicated, as a first step to wellness, she said.

On Jan. 18, residents, local and state housing leaders, and community development partners, including LISC Phoenix, will celebrate the grand opening of Camelback Pointe, 1537 W. Camelback Road.

NAC has a 46-year history of providing supportive services in central Phoenix for urban Native Americans with substance abuse issue. Its focus on housing emerged from that work. NAC opened it’s first Housing First service model to end homelessness when it celebrated the grand opening of Encanto Pointe apartment complex in 2013. Input from Encanto Pointe residents emphasized the importance of transit to wellness.

Camelback Pointe’s location adjacent to Valley Metro light rail is intentional and so are its design features. For example, bicycles are the major source of transportation for residents, and so Camelback Pointe has ample bike storage and a bike repair shop.

In addition to internal 24/7 NAC services, residents live in what Hipps called a “naturally service enriched location.” Via light rail or bike, residents have easy access to a federally qualified health center in Mountain Park Health Center at the Chris Town YMCA, a branch of the public library, Solano Park, and a Fry’s grocery story.

Camelback Pointe is NAC’s fifth permanent supportive housing site with a single-individual focus. A sixth site is in the pipeline.

“In Arizona and in Phoenix in particular, there is a significant need for  permanent supportive housing in general and for singles in particular, and so I think we’re just filling a much-needed gap for the type of community member that needs more structure, that needs more investment to achieve housing stability,” Hipps said.

LISC Phoenix, which helped NAC purchase land for Camelback Pointe, is among those contributing to the investment in permanent supportive housing. Such investment requires a shift in thinking about the expenses associated with improving the housing and health conditions of chronically homeless people who are regular users of the emergency medical services and can revolve through criminal justice systems. The Housing First service model shifts investment into something that has long-term, positive effect on their lives and reduces costs in other systems of care.

“In a financing climate where it’s really hard to find someone to be ‘first in,’ LISC is willing to be first in,” said Diana Yazzie Devine, CEO of NAC. “That means the world to us as developers to have a partner that believes in our model, believes in our ability to perform long-term. It’s a real gift.”

The Red Book Magazine

‘Leap for Joy’

The Red Book, a resource for those involved in the social and philanthropic community, and azredbook.com launched a new magazine. The Red Book Magazine will have a single focus. The premier issue published in September 2017 focused on the arts. JDD Specialties was honored to write a feature, “Leap for Joy,” for the first issue of The Red Book Magazine

 

Don’t sell the flag and the values it represents cheap

I’ve been trying to articulate the angst, disappointment and frustration about the framing of free speech/Trump issue, and so of course, I find what I need in the sports pages, where on most days lives a newspaper’s best writing and perspective. A quote from Kurt Warner:
 
“We have this narrative that these protests are contradictory to our flag and contradictory to our military,” Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner said Sunday morning on the NFL Network. “I don’t see them that way. I see them as complementary to the ideals to the flag, to the military and what they fought for — the servicemen and women and what they fought for. I have not heard one player that has not been more than grateful to our military. This isn’t about that at all; it’s about standing up for the ideals of the flag.”
 
I can’t reconcile my understanding of the flag’s representation and the way the president and his supporters say how it MUST be seen. Any challenge to their idea is seen as unpatriotic, disrespectful and ungrateful. (And, Lord have mercy, there is so much “stuff” attached to that “ungrateful” characterization of black professional athletes.)
 
I see a lot of things when I look at the flag. I hear a lot of things when I hear the anthem. But based on what I hear from the president and others other the last few days, the flag is all about respecting veterans and first responders. That’s cheap and narrow.
 
We seem to be living in a moment of historic revisionism about a banner. Again.
 

Creative economic development efforts grow success in downtown Mesa

(Note: This blog is an installment of the LISC Phoenix monthly series, “Communities on the Line.”)

On a sunny March afternoon in downtown Mesa, a rooster’s call is louder than a light-rail train’s toots, a retiree tends a plot of an urban garden wrapped in local artists’ murals, and a party of four repeat customers talks shop during a meal at a restaurant with Mesa roots running deeper than the business planted there four years ago.

Welcome to LISC-style economic development. The nonprofit’s focus on small business, transit-oriented development and creative placemaking to help build community are on full display at the Southside Heights commercial corner that is home to the popular República Empanada restaurant and the Mesa Urban Garden.

The northeast corner of First Avenue and Hibbert Street, just south of Main Street, is also an example of an effective “survive and thrive” community development strategy to help neighborhoods through the disruption of Valley Metro light-rail construction.

“Community development is community building,” said Terry Benelli, executive director of LISC Phoenix. “You accomplish that by building trust with residents and businesses of the neighborhood. I’m really proud of how things happened.”

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Trump adds another twist to my hometown’s saga

jefferson-countySmithfield, Ohio: My hometown. My Mom’s hometown. Her father’s hometown. It had hopes for an Obama administration in 2008. Now it’s an example of Trump populism.

The photo with the Business Insider article, “A small town in Ohio holds clues to Trump victory,” shows the North and Main street sign. I had a wonderful childhood on North Street where Mom and Dad built a home more than 60 years ago.

The small town’s history has interesting twists and turns. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Quakers had a lot to do with that.

In Mom’s youth, there was a movie theater. It was segregated. Blacks had to sit in the balcony. Decades later her brother would become mayor.

Mom tells of the time some of her kin and their friends crashed a Klan rally. Whatever happened that night made it so my generation didn’t have to deal with that, at least not until I was in high school and some out-of-towner grand wizard threatened to hold a rally. My friends, mostly white, told me not to worry about it. The rally never happened.

There were several churches back in the day when the town was booming at about 1,000 people. Dad championed ecumenical services. Pastors delivered sermons at our church. Dad took the pulpit in theirs.

The town is surrounded by beautiful farmland. Fathers’ hard work in steel mills and coal mines put a lot of kids through college.

It’s a different place today. It has taken a turn for the worse. I’m so sorry about that.

Horoscope tells the story of my life

“To be persuasive, you have to get the facts right — a no-brainer for you. Details and integrity are the spokes in your wheel. Now you just need to give those facts an emotionally compelling context and you’ll be set. — Horoscope, Aug. 25, 2016

Reading my daily horoscope is a guilty pleasure. A couple of times a year it’s exactly right. Like today.

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I’m proud of you, Chief Brown

13592818_488406514687605_6018476988885338428_nDallas Police Chief David O. Brown is a profile in courage. He is so grounded in reality. I’ve enjoyed watching him lead. What he said about the impossible demands placed on police officers as quoted in the New York Times is truth in boldface. We have so much work to do.

“Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding, let’s give it to the cops. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem. Let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women. Let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well.”

“Policing was never meant to solve all those problems,” he said.

Where are the Albert Einsteins of today?

Who in 2016 will act on what was said in 1946? We need not be geniuses to do and say the right things?
 
“A large part of our attitude toward things is conditioned by opinions and emotions which we unconsciously absorb as children from our environment. In other words, it is tradition—besides inherited aptitudes and qualities—which makes us what we are. We but rarely reflect how relatively small as compared with the powerful influence of tradition is the influence of our conscious thought upon our conduct and convictions.
 
“It would be foolish to despise tradition. But with our growing self-consciousness and increasing intelligence we must begin to control tradition and assume a critical attitude toward it, if human relations are ever to change for the better. We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity—and shape our lives accordingly.”
 
http://www.onbeing.org/program/albert-einstein-the-negro-question-1946#.V4QFJcDj1Hg.facebook

No offense to great photogs, but it’s possible to love a crappy photo

IMG_0045I know a good photo when I see one. This is a crappy photo. Here’s why I love it:

There snoozes, Auggie, my hyperactive grandpup. When he’s not channeling his inner greyhound doing laps around the house, he catnaps. The space between my mom’s socked feet is his new go-to spot for some shut eye. Mom doesn’t notice because she’s napping, too, a frequent habit with the lower energy level of the last few weeks.

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Mesa tackles tricky billing questions in bold community medicine effort

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.20.09 AMCommunity paramedicine could revolutionize the business of healthcare delivery in Arizona. Several Arizona communities have launched fire service-based community paramedicine programs. Mesa has the largest, most developed program and is tackling thorny issues that address the viability of community paramedicine.

This recent Arizona Republic article explains the billing and reimbursement issues that are key to program financial sustainability.

A Vitalyst Health Foundation policy primer, written by JDD Specialties, provides an overview of the community paramedicine component of mobile integrated healthcare in Arizona and highlights six fire-service based programs. Vitalyst will profile at least six additional community paramedicine programs this year.

Arts and culture inspire new thinking about community development

(Written for LISC Phoenix. Photo is art adorning the Mesa Arts Center. )

The arts and culture component in comprehensive community development is more than a pop of color in a housing project or a hint of traditional neighborhood vibe. Individual and group stability, civic leadership, creative problem-solving, and hope all spring from intentional efforts to instill arts and culture in community revitalization.

The considered opinion of a panel of experts discussing creative placemaking at an April 6 event in Mesa made clear there is more to arts and culture in community development than meets the eye.

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All in a day’s work

Because your work requires a focus on transit-oriented development projects along the light-rail line and it’s a gorgeous day made fresh with spring showers.
 
Because two heads are better than one and you invite a friend along for an eastbound ride to see what’s happening along the route.
 
Because near the end of the line in Mesa is a local gem that serves delicious empanadas and maduros and you had promised your friend a treat.
 

Phoenix Indian School Legacy project inspires moves to the beat of a different drum

(Written by JDD Specialties for Terry Benelli, executive director of LISC Phoenix.)

Eskwel uma angkyahkya LISC.

“Thank you, it’s good you all came here today to the LISC event,” White Spider Girl said in Hopi language. What followed her greeting at a March 22 gathering of LISC executive directors in downtown Phoenix was a brief, compelling account in English of the 99-year history of the Phoenix Indian School site three miles away.

At the end of the boarding school story of tragedy and triumph, White Spider Girl, also known as Patty Talahongva, community development manager at Native American Connections, smiled and said she wished she had a drum roll for the exciting news she would share publicly for the first time: City-financed construction begins immediately to restore the historic Phoenix Indian School music building. Native culture will activate the public space in the spring of 2017.

Expect drumming and so much more.

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We are who we say we are, dang it

Brooks_New-articleInlineTwo great passages from David Brooks’ “Not Trump, Not Ever” column.

“Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how (Republican voters) would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.”

“Donald Trump is an affront to basic standards of honesty, virtue and citizenship. He pollutes the atmosphere in which our children are raised. He has already shredded the unspoken rules of political civility that make conversation possible. In his savage regime, public life is just a dog-eat-dog war of all against all.”

Presidential elections give voters an opportunity to have their say. Their choice in leaders says a lot, and it’s tradition to respect the message. This year is no different. Primary election voters are who they say they are. In 2016, we’re struggling to respect the clear message that rejects any notion of appealing to what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature.”

 

Native American center

Promoting cultural connections

LISC Phoenix was among the early supporters of a plan to turn the historic music building at Steele Indian School Park into a Native American cultural center. LISC Phoenix executive director Terry Benelli said the renovated center could be one of the region’s best examples of creative placemaking with cultural emphasis.

Death made life real

Dad's portraitI grew up 15 years ago today, the final day of watching Dad die. Until then, I was just going through the motions of adulthood.

Death made life real. It shook up my thinking about what I thought was important and worth chasing. Clarity of purpose brought calmness and strength.

Losing Dad hurt like nothing I experienced before or after. But 15 years later, I know that one of the greatest gifts from that experience was losing my fear of death. Life is easier when you’re not afraid to die.

Below is a Thanksgiving column I wrote about Dad in 2000, when I was still struggling to fully understand what losing him meant to my family. I’m still figuring that out.

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Domestic terrorism … again

Let’s not mince words about the suspect in the massacre at Emanuel AME Church. He is a terrorist of the worst kind ­- the domestic variety that this nation knows so well.

Nine people were gunned down Wednesday night at a Bible study inside the historic church in Charleston, S.C. The attack ignites again the uniquely American debates about guns, violence and racism.

But this attack at this church in this day and age does so much more than that. At least it should. (Full disclosure: The African Methodist Episcopal Church is dear to my family. My grandfather was a presiding elder in the AME Ohio conference. All three of his sons, including my father, were ordained ministers. At least one cousin in my generation carries on the Dokes tradition.)

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