People in hard hats

Edna Martin Christian Center and RecycleForce Set to Use Federal Awards to Create Jobs in Promise Zone

On October 2nd, 2019, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced this year’s awardees for its Community Economic Development grant program. Among the awardees were Edna Martin Christian Center and RecycleForce, two organizations which serve Promise Zone residents. Both organizations received the maximum award of $800,000. The Community Economic Development program, organized through the Office of Community Services (OCS), funds projects that enhance job creation and business development for low income populations. Both Edna Martin Christian Center and RecycleForce will use their awards to create jobs and bolster their efforts to serve their communities.

As part of their grant application, Edna Martin Christian Center (EMCC) leveraged the Promise Zone designation, and has now received its first direct federal funding award. Promise Zone Director Jon Berg reiterated the importance of supporting organizations like EMCC as they begin and increase their federal funding pursuit: “We were incredibly proud to support Edna Martin’s application to OCS –CED and certainly their achievement of this first direct federal grant. Additional capacity of agencies to apply for and receive federal funding is a key organizational infrastructure goal of the IndyEast Promise Zone.” EMCC primarily serves the Martindale-Brightwood and Hillside communities, but is a valuable asset to the other surrounding neighborhoods as well. Tracing its roots back to the 1940s, EMCC has steadily expanded its programming from childcare to a well-rounded set of services that benefit community members of all ages. This expansion has included the acquisition and development of the Leadership and Legacy Campus, located at 2259 North Ralston Avenue. The Leadership and Legacy Campus property has been utilized by EMCC since 2016. The property is now home to the Leadership and Legacy Center, a 23,240-square foot building which was once an oil processing facility, as well as KIPP Indy Legacy High. Funding from OCS will be used for two development strategies at the Leadership and Legacy Campus. The first strategy involves the expansion of the Leadership and Legacy Center, which currently hosts EMCC’s after school programs. OCS funding will help expand the building’s commercial kitchen. Additionally, it will allow for the expansion of both youth and senior services provided at the campus. The second strategy that will utilize OCS funding will be the development of a portion of the campus that has been leased to Piper Warehouse, a neighboring logistics company. The two acres that Piper has leased will be developed so that the company can expand and take on bigger jobs. These two strategies will collectively create 36 new full-time jobs, with 31 of those being targeted to low income area residents. The creation of jobs and expansion of services at the Leadership and Legacy Campus will be extremely valuable to the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond.

Pictured above: Outdoor playground and gardening area at the Leadership and Legacy Campus

For RecycleForce, the award from OCS continues a promising trend of leveraging federal funding to support important local initiatives. RecycleForce operates at the intersection of environmental sustainability and reentry services, providing the Near Eastside community with a unique example of how business, economic, and social needs can all be addressed together. A key piece of RecycleForce’s mission and business model is employing formerly-incarcerated people and connecting them with training opportunities to help them build a career. With their OCS funding, RecycleForce will create 40 new jobs, with a significant focus on peer leadership. Focusing on peer leadership will mean training new hires in interpersonal skills that will enable them to help their coworkers and other people with similar challenges. This approach complements RecycleForce’s commitment to helping their employees with professional development by addressing their social and emotional needs as well. By creating these new jobs, RecycleForce will continue their growth and commitment to serving the Near Eastside community. Their commitment to providing reentry services to the community also aligns with the Promise Zone’s Safe IndyEast goals, and helps create a safer community. RecycleForce has repeatedly prove its ability to use federal funds to better serve the community, a trend that will continue with this new award. This is RecycleForce’s second award from OCS through the Community Economic Development program since the Promise Zone designation.

Pictured above: RecycleForce employees work with old electronics

Both EMCC and RecycleForce will use their OCS funding to create jobs and build their capacity to serve to Near Eastside community. The creation of these nearly 80 jobs supports the Promise Zone’s Work IndyEast goals and will empower more neighbors to develop their careers and find living-wage jobs. These efforts to create jobs for Promise Zone neighbors are vital to promoting economic growth. With organizations like EMCC and RecycleForce working hard to support the prosperity of the neighborhoods they serve, the future appears bright.

Since the Promise Zone designation, OCS funding has been awarded eight times to support business development and hiring for neighbors. These latest awards bring the total in OCS funding awarded to organizations serving or hiring Promise Zone residents to nearly $6.4 million since the designation in 2015. Find the story on one of the past OCS awards here.