Active community organizations create alliance

May 10, 2012

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In a move to combine talent and complement efforts, four local organizations have formed an alliance to improve the quality of life in Cedar Rapids.

Diversity Focus, Regional Economic Development Institute (RED-I), Affordable Housing Network (AHNI) and Four Oaks have several objectives, all of which address the need to build a stronger, more inclusive community. 

“In our current economic climate, no organization can afford to go at it alone,” said RED-I board member Karl Cassell.  “The members of this alliance, RED-I, Diversity Focus, Affordable Housing Network and Four Oaks, are taking a holistic approach to assist in the economic development in the African American community throughout the Corridor.”

According to officials from the four organizations, the alliance intends to establish and implement an African-American economic development strategy as well as provide job preparation opportunities for African-American youth.  In addition, the group plans to improve housing and transform neighborhoods.

"Community building alliances like this one will help create a culture of collaboration that makes the Creative Corridor one of the best places to live,” said Chad Simmons, Executive Director of Diversity Focus.  “We plan to leverage our sponsors, partners and programming to promote sustainable improvements across the region.” 

Officials noted that they believe that diversity and inclusion are critical attributes for a strong and successful 21st century community. 

“It is important to realize that this alliance provides expertise in the areas of housing, family, employment, economic development, and community.  We firmly believe that to achieve the level of success we all aspire to, each of these areas needs to be strengthened,” said Jim Ernst, Four Oaks CEO.

The alliance expects to announce a variety of initiatives during the next several weeks. 

Members of the Alliance are:

Diversity Focus has a mission to be the area’s model of inclusion that values, nurtures, attracts, and retains people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs.  Established in 2005, it integrates and coordinates existing efforts, as well as identify or create other activities and programs.  It provides leadership in the promotion of diversity, cultural awareness and inclusion in the Corridor community.  

RED‐I is the Regional Economic Development Institute, which was developed by local African American business professionals to attract, retain, empower, and sustain African‐American business leaders through sound economic principles and entrepreneurship activities within the Cedar Rapids Corridor, the region, and State of Iowa. The organization creates awareness, increases business, promotes a network and establishes economic development strategies for African American and underrepresented business leaders and communities.  James Whitfield, Sr. is the president of RED-I

AHNI is a local non-profit organization committed to providing affordable housing in the Cedar Rapids area.  The organization offers a variety of apartment and townhouses and is affiliated with Four Oaks. 

Four Oaks is one of the state’s largest agencies dedicated to child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health.  Headquartered in Cedar Rapids, the agency and its affiliates serve more than 14,000 children and families each year in all 99 Iowa counties.