TOPEKA – Kansas Department for Children and Families Phyllis Gilmore Secretary has announced a new initiative to address community issues, such as poverty, substance abuse and absent fathers. To launch the effort at the Kansas State Capitol Building, Topeka, Secretary Gilmore and Governor Sam Brownback met with the leader of the initiative, Robert L. Woodson, Sr., to discuss a year-long pilot project to help vulnerable Kansas communities. The project is called the “Kansas Community Leadership Initiative.”
“I’m excited to see this nationally-recognized, successful initiative come to Kansas,” Governor Brownback said. “Government doesn’t have the answers, our citizens know the problems plaguing their communities; and I look forward to working with Mr. Woodson to help our towns and neighborhoods address those social issues at a grassroots level.”
Woodson is president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE), a national non-profit headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a 33-year history of helping cities and neighborhoods address the problems of their communities. The Center does this by helping communities identify those effective neighborhood leaders who can bring positive change to troubled neighborhoods. CNE provides training, technical assistance and support to those leaders of community and faith-based organizations, ensuring that all sectors of a given city are represented in plans for social and economic revitalization.
DCF has granted CNE funds to launch a 12-month pilot project in Kansas. Select leaders will be invited to participate in a community assessment process aimed at identifying solutions to critical community issues facing Kansas children and families. Issue-specific plans will be developed for increasing neighborhood and community involvement in initiatives to improve residents’ well-being. During the second and third phase of the project, CNE will provide leadership training for community and faith-based organizations in an effort to leverage resources needed to facilitate change at the grassroots level across the state. KCLI will include 240 leaders from 17 different communities in Kansas.
In addition to meeting with the Governor, Woodson and his team, also met with community, corporate and family foundations and community and faith-based leaders to begin the planning process in this statewide community development effort. The team members include Charles Perry, head of CNE’s project management, training development, operational management, strategic planning and program evaluation; and Terence Mathis, vice president and chief operating officer of CNE.
“I’m pleased by the energy, enthusiasm and commitment to this project,” Woodson said. “Communities have the power to turn things around. I’m excited to lead this process so that children and families are no longer living in poverty and in crisis. I’ve seen first-hand how this model can work. And I know it will be successful here in Kansas.”
Woodson, a former civil rights activist, founded CNE in 1981. The Center has provided training and technical assistance to more than 2,000 leaders of community and faith-based organizations, and financial literacy training to more than 22,000 community residents.
A founding principle of CNE is that those suffering the problem must be involved in the creation and implementation of the solution, and CNE projects have led to major advancements for residents of low-income neighborhoods in cities such as Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee. CNE has a major focus on reducing youth violence, and its community-based Violence-Free Zone initiative is successfully reducing violence and making classrooms safe for education in selected public schools in Baltimore, Chicago, Hartford, Milwaukee and Washington, D,C,. For more information on CNE, visit www.cneonline.org.