We welcome back Ellen Larmer, director of Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADCB) to Poverty’s Edge. Ellen has been director of CADCB for over 9 years and has over 15 years of experience in government, military and non-profit organizations, including working both locally and internationally for the protection and well-being of children and families. Thanks for contributing!

 

M & T Bank received a huge thank-you on September 15th for their million-dollar support of Community Action Development Corporation’s Neighborhood Partnership Program over the past ten years.  In 2001, M & T Bank (then Allfirst Bank) signed up to participate in a Pennsylvania corporate tax credit program. The bank committed $1 million to be used over the next ten years, and the rest is history!

To start, the bank funded a master plan developed by well-known planning consultants, Sasaki Associates from Cambridge Massachusetts. That plan was created with extensive neighborhood input and participation.  Next, a Steering Committee of business and community leaders, residents, and staff was organized to oversee the project began as Southside Vision 2012, we eventually changed the name to Southside 2014 when additional investors (Just Born, PPL and Lehigh Valley Health Network) joined the effort.  The plan emphasized the following goals: Southside residents will have safe and affordable housing, and greater economic opportunity, their neighborhood youth will be engaged in community arts, education and recreation programs, and community projects will improve the appearance and desirability of the neighborhood.

Over the past ten years, major changes have occurred and south Bethlehem has come alive again!  M & T’s commitment of $1 million has been key to such projects as the Southside Greenway, the Skate Plaza, and new decorative streetlights along East Fourth Street.  These are fine examples of what community partnerships can accomplish. The M & T annual funding of $100,000 also helped to establish a farmer’s market, neighborhood street festival and a community technology center.  Three “Operation Facelift” residential façade improvement programs, a commercial façade program and many emergency housing repairs were made possible.  Numerous annual youth recreational programs; a branding and marketing strategy was developed to strengthen the business district now known as “Four Blocks International” The Yosko Splash Park, was created, as well as landscaping, signage and repairs to various parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities.  Entrepreneurial initiatives provided by our staff (Start Your Business Class and technical assistance) helped boost the reputation of the Southside neighborhood as a community that supports and fosters business development. Our efforts resulted in 94 businesses being opened and 40 businesses being expanded or improved.

The impact of the M & T contribution is almost impossible to measure. We have data, numbers, and metrics, but can we ever know how many people have benefited? What about the 13-year old boy who becomes a software engineer because of his experience at the Fowler Community Technology Center? And what about the elementary student that doesn’t have to move again because her family’s home oil burner has been repaired with emergency funds? Truly, none of us will ever know how many lives have changed because of the M& T contribution.

On behalf of all of the Southside residents who have benefited from this generous contribution to our community, we thank M & T Bank.