Up­side Al­len­town pre­views fo­cus on youth ini­tia­tives

The Morning Call - - LOCAL / REGION - By An­drew Waga­man Morn­ing Call re­porter An­drew Waga­man can be reached at 610-820-6764 or awaga­[email protected]

Over the past five years, Up­side Al­len­town has in­vested $550,000 worth of an­nual cor­po­rate do­na­tions in a va­ri­ety of ini­tia­tives meant to im­prove com­mu­ni­ties on the pe­riph­ery of a resur­gent down­town.

Dur­ing an an­nual pre­sen­ta­tion Mon­day, lead­ers in­di­cated the project will move in a more youth-fo­cused di­rec­tion over the next half-dozen years.

Up­side Al­len­town is a six-year Neigh­bor­hood Part­ner­ship Pro­gram run by the Com­mu­nity Ac­tion De­vel­op­ment Corp. of Al­len­town and funded by pri­vate part­ners re­ceiv­ing state tax cred­its. CADC Al­len­town works with a hand­ful of non­prof­its and City Hall to sup­port ed­u­ca­tion, the arts, build­ing fa­cade im­prove­ments and pub­lic safety, among other things.

For each year of the six-year pro­gram, BB&T has paid $150,000; PPL Corp. and TD Bank each contribute­d $100,000; and Alvin H. Butz, City Cen­ter In­vest­ment Corp., Lafayette Am­bas­sador Bank and Wells Fargo Bank each contribute­d $50,000.

Now CADC Al­len­town is pre­par­ing its six-year re­newal ap­pli­ca­tion with the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, which pro­vides the 80% tax credit to par­tic­i­pat­ing busi­nesses.

The re­cent gun vi­o­lence in the city has com­pelled lead­ers to con­cen­trate the Up­side Al­len­town pro­gram on serv­ing youth and their fam­i­lies, CADC Al­len­town Di­rec­tor Dan Bos­ket said.

The ap­pli­ca­tion isn’t due un­til April, so Bos­ket and oth­ers didn’t of­fer much in the way of specifics Mon­day. But ide­ally, Up­side Al­len­town would help sup­port the open­ing of mul­ti­ple com­mu­nity cen­ters in the Cen­ter City area that would of­fer sports, arts and mu­sic ac­tiv­i­ties in ad­di­tion to men­tor­ing, Bos­ket said.

He noted that the non­profit Livin The Dream Foun­da­tion re­cently re­ceived zon­ing re­lief to op­er­ate a com­mu­nity cen­ter Fri­day and Satur­day nights at a for­mer tex­tile mill at 314 N. 12th St.

The project would also fo­cus on in­creas­ing work­force de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and en­tre­pre­neur­ial train­ing for youth, said Alan Jen­nings, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity Ac­tion Com­mit­tee of the Le­high Val­ley, of which CADC Al­len­town is a sub­sidiary.

Up­side Al­len­town is not the only group to re­visit youth en­gage­ment in re­cent months. Al­len­town City Coun­cil re­cently cre­ated a youth ad­vi­sory task force to brain­storm how the city can do more to sup­port young fam­i­lies from the out­set.

Bos­ket, who’s also pres­i­dent of the Al­len­town NAACP, said Up­side Al­len­town will be mind­ful of not merely repli­cat­ing oth­ers’ ef­forts and will in­stead try to con­nect var­i­ous ini­tia­tives and iden­tify gaps in the larger net­work to cre­ate a “smor­gas­bord” of re­sources.

“If you can get kids in­ter­ested in things that mo­ti­vate them, that will en­able them to take other pos­i­tive steps to­ward se­cur­ing a bet­ter fu­ture,” Bos­ket said.

Mayor Ray O’Con­nell, city po­lice Chief Glenn Granitz and a hand­ful of oth­ers spoke Mon­day on the ac­tiv­i­ties Up­side Al­len­town has helped fund in the past year.

Among oth­ers:

• More than 100 stu­dents be­gan at­tend­ing the Head Start Learn­ing Hub in the same build­ing that houses The Morn­ing Call at Sixth and Lin­den streets in Al­len­town af­ter an Up­side Al­len­town part­ner con­nected City Cen­ter In­vest­ment with Com­mu­nity Ser­vices for Chil­dren, which op­er­ates the lo­cal Head Start pro­gram and was in search of new class­room space.

• Up­side Al­len­town also com­pleted four res­i­den­tial re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion projects in the 200 block of North 10th Street, funded the cre­ation of five new busi­nesses and sup­ported ESL classes for 29 res­i­dents at The Lit­er­acy Cen­ter.

• In the area of pub­lic safety, it helped fund the en­roll­ment of 37 mid­dle school stu­dents in the first stage of the Al­len­town Po­lice De­part­ment’s Youth Civil­ian Po­lice Acad­emy. Chief Granitz said past grad­u­ates of the acad­emy re­turned this year to serve as stu­dent men­tors.

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