Five years ago, in the spring of 2011, Bessie Washington, a lifelong resident of Mantua, Philadelphia, began planting tulips and petunias across the street from her row house. Washington intended the garden as a memorial to her mother, and in a few months, her flowers had transformed the barren lot into a burst of life and brightness, catching the attention of other longtime residents who dreamed of seeing their blighted neighborhood revived.
Washington remembers a very different Mantua. In the 1960s, the triangle-shaped neighborhood, just north of Drexel University, enveloped some 200,000 residents and bustling commercial activity. Today, its population barely tops 8,300 and as of 2012, the median household income was just $19,150.
But after decades of disinvestment, genuine neighborhood revitalization is beginning to take shape, led by the community itself with support from the Philadelphia office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
The area’s transformation, and the grassroots cooperation that has moved it along, are exemplified by the Mantua Greenway campaign to build a trail that will serve as a walking and bike path, a green space, and a reclaimed link to other parts of the city.
Washington started the campaign when she began rallying residents around a strategy to revive an overgrown path that runs the length of Mantua Avenue. After careful planning, and receiving foundation and state funding, the project is projected to break ground in the spring of 2017.
The new funding is exciting, but it’s hard-won. State money for the greenway project alone is the culmination of three years of organizing by neighborhood leaders and supporters embedded in the community. One of these supporters was LISC, which works with local groups to help them catalyze change, build strong leaders, and get access to funding.
LISC saw that Mantua residents would benefit from targeted assistance in order to achieve the neighborhood they envisioned. In 2012, the organization began funding a veteran community organizer, Donna Griffin, to support Mantua’s civic leaders. She started by recruiting volunteers to form committees that would research the needs of residents, as well as potential grant opportunities.
Praxis Mutual Funds® supports LISC and similar organizations through investments in Calvert Foundation, an impact-investing institution that enables people around the world to do their work through community development financing. For more stories about people who have benefitted from these investments, visit the Praxis Community Development Investments page at praxismutualfunds.com.
View the original story from the Calvert Foundation website here.
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Calvert Foundation enables people to invest for social good. Through its flagship Community Investment Note®, more than 15,000 investors have channeled more than $1 billion in investments to hundreds of nonprofits and social enterprises worldwide. Investor dollars empower women, fund the construction of affordable housing, provide loans to small-business owners, increase access to health care, and support fair trade and sustainable agriculture. To learn more, visit calvertfoundation.org.