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West side nonprofits get big funding boost from bank program

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Nonprofit leaders face a task that will continue on into eternity: They’re always trying to track down funding. Two nonprofits on the near west side recently got a significant boost in that search from Bank of America.

Christamore House Family and Community Center and Westside Community Development Corporation will receive $200,000 over the next two years and a year of leadership training as part of Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders program.

Christamore House CEO La’Toya Pitts said the organization will use the extra funding — which is applied $100,000 at a time — to add more spots to its early childhood education program and expand its utility and rent assistance programs for citizens on the near west side.

There’s also a plan to relaunch a reentry program, which Pitts said wouldn’t be possible without that money.

The funding won’t be enough to cover everything, but it will at least be a good “springboard,” Pitts said.

Robert Hawthorne, executive director of Westside CDC, said the extra funding will allow him to “stabilize operations” while potentially adding more staff and expanding existing programs.

Westside CDC and Christamore House are separated by roughly 700 feet on West Michigan Street. Their areas of focus and expertise are different, but they share the same larger purpose, which is to help the residents of the near west side. A combined $400,000 and two years of leadership training should help further that.

Hawthorne said his organization can help with development in the area, but he needs Christamore House to step in with the social services.

“The thought is that if we can get all the organizations working together, we can make things happen a little bit quicker for the community,” he said.

For the year of leadership training, each executive director also chose an “emerging leader” to participate. True to his commitment to pull together leaders from around the community, Hawthorne chose Sibeko Jywanza from Flanner House to join him in the training, which will include conferences and speakers.

Hawthorne has been in nonprofit leadership since the early 1990s but joked that he’s “probably forgotten more things than I’ve learned over the years.”

“When you’re doing work like this,” he said, “you can get bogged down in the details a lot, and you spend a lot of time just trying to pull things off. For my position, I really need to step back and get to a higher level. I need to see how things integrate together.”

Pitts chose Kortney Jones, a case manager at Christamore House, to be part of the training.

Jones previously worked for Lawrence Township schools and has been at Christamore House for only four months. She said she’s looking forward to simply meeting other leaders and learning from them.

Pitts, who has led Christamore House for about a year, called the training “the best part.”

“It will give me an opportunity to be around some other emerging leaders and find out what’s going on in other parts of our country,” she said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Left to right: Kortney Jones and La’Toya Pitts, from Christamore House, will take part in a year of leadership training as part of Bank of America’s Building Neighborhoods program. Christamore House will also receive $200,000 from the program. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

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