In 1982, the Atlanta Public School Board decided to close the Moreland Elementary School on the corner of Euclid and Austin Avenues in a consolidation effort. The grassroots model for non-profits was an active one in the formative years of newly emerging in town neighborhoods, such as Candler Park, Inman Park and Little Five Points. Making a personal difference and a contribution to the area was (and is) a common bond, leading to the formation of many businesses and organizations in the area today. Vision making was a part of the every-day conversation for the “movers and shakers” in our communities.
Who knows exactly where the spark flew that heated up the concept of transforming a large old building with three floors of classrooms, a cafeteria at one end and an auditorium at the other into a collection of non-profits, arts and like-minded groups.
We do know that our previous Executive Director, Joe Shifalo, took charge of that spark which led to a $1/year lease from the School Board to a newly formed non-profit, the Little Five Points Community Center, Inc.
It became the mission of this non-profit to provide affordable rental spaces to a select group of organizations. At the beginning of the initial venture, L5PCC Inc. served as an incubator to organizations that later found other or permanent spaces. Among those are the Georgia Solar Coalition (now Southface Institute), Seven Stages, and Metro Fair Housing Services. For the last ten years, L5PCC Inc. has maintained a stable group of resident tenants with limited space available.
The current residents (twelve organizations) participate in the governance and mission of the building through the Resident Advisory Council (RAC). From this group, 3-5 individuals are appointed to serve on the Board of Directors.
In 2008, L5PCC needed a new leader. It was time for Joe Shifalo to retire, having given 20 years to the Center and the residents housed there. With faith and an excellent interviewing system, L5PCC Inc. was able to attract an outstanding Executive Director – a visionary leader who is also grounded in the reality of the day-to-day challenges of a 30,000 square foot building, grounds and tenants.
Imani Evans holds a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters in Counseling Psychology. She has been a social change agent for more than twenty years, working with non-profit agencies in Atlanta, New Jersey and New York. Her areas of organizational expertise are creative program development, staff training, and coalition building. Prior to her December 1, 2008, beginning with L5PCC Inc, Imani founded Women Healing Women Inc., a non-profit for female survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Imani is an author, speaker and performance poet. Her commitment to community, collaboration and programming will sustain L5PCC for many years to come.
In 2006, the Board of Directors, with leadership assistance from Randy Pimsler and Pimsler-Hoss Architects, Inc. put together a strategic plan for the building. The plan addressed structural, energy-efficient, and accessibility issues. What worked for schoolchildren in the early part of the last century does not work as well today. The building is an historic treasure and as such, has to conform to certain guidelines. Large single-pane windows, which allow natural light for artist studios, also pose challenges for energy loss and safety. Drainage systems built in 1929 pose infrastructure challenges. An individual who is unable to negotiate steps can access only a small portion of the building and could not volunteer, serve or participate with organizations on an inaccessible floor.
The Board made a committed decision to launch a Capital Campaign with two phases. The first phase set a goal of $500,000. A consultant was hired to assist in contacting and researching foundations that might be interested in our mission and goals, and to coach our Board in reaching out to individual donors. Pledges from the Board totaled approximately $50,000. Our next step was to apply for a block grant (CDBG) from the City of Atlanta. The grant awarded L5PCC Inc. $120,000 in funding specifically for the purpose of installing an elevator. Another action step by the Campaign Cabinet was to hold house parties to introduce neighborhood individuals to the Center and the Campaign, and to ask for pledges. Parties were held at the homes of Don Bender( Candler Park), Anna Foote (Poncey-Highland) and Lori and Danny Sandoval-Feig (Inman Park). Additional house parties are planned for the fall. A Development Consultant, Kathie DeNobriga, begins work on July 1, 2009 to develop applications and proposals to national and local foundations. L5PCC Inc. Board members are approaching neighborhood organizations that acknowledge L5PCC as an asset to their community and may want to participate in funding the Capital Campaign.
Construction on the elevator should begin by the end of this summer. The sidewalks and driveway, with access cuts, surrounding L5PCC have been upgraded and are now walk-able and safe to traverse. Drainage needs have been addressed. Although the CDBG grant gives L5PCC a great start on accessibility, it is not enough to cover the costs. Ongoing efforts are needed to continue to fund the Campaign.
Little Five Points Community Center – Elevator Ground Breaking Ceremony
(Left to Right: Council Person Kwanza Hall, Joe Shifalo, Randy Pimsler, Imani Evans, Kathie DeNobriga)
Photo Credit : Van Hall