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TRP, Johnson-Gabriel recognized at CNDA

Two NCP lead agencies had particular reason for pride during the 16th annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, held Feb. 9 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Among the 10 projects, organizations and individuals recognized, respectively, were The Resurrection Project (TRP) and Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, executive director of Quad Communities Development Corporation. More than 60 judges culled the CNDA winners from "scores of entries" based on applications and site visits.

Photo: Alex Fledderjohn

Executive director Raul Raymundo of The Resurrection Project receives his agency's Chicago Neighborhood Development Award.

TRP won The Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Strategy Award for its work on the Pilsen Quality-of-Life Planning Process, which brought together more than 20 organizers who collaborated on a vision, strategies and projects.

The plan, "Pilsen: A Center of Mexican Life," reflects the shared vision of individuals, businesses, elected officials, faith-based groups and other organizations around the community’s ethnic heritage. Five task forces meet monthly to push forward on the strategy areas in the plan: education, housing, family, economy and image.

"This is a tremendous award," said Raul I. Raymundo, chief executive officer and co-founder of TRP. The video “tells the message and story of bringing people together as stakeholders.”

"Good works in community development is about much more thank bricks and mortar," added Terry Mazany, president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust.

Photo: Alex Fledderjohn

Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, executive director of QCDC, receives the Norman Bobins Leadership Award.

Johnson-Gabriel received The Norman Bobins Leadership Award for shepherding the process that created the Quad Communities Quality-of-Life Plan as NCP director and leveraging resources to jump-start key projects like the Bronzeville Community Market and the designation of Special Service Area 47.

She continues to lead QCDC's revival of the Cottage Grove Commercial Corridor, work to beautify the neighborhood to support economic development, and support for education, youth and family programs to turn schools into centers of community life.

"What an honor this is," Johnson-Gabriel said, thanking several partners and mentors including LISC, consultant Chinye Onyeagoro, city planner James Wilson, QCDC board chair Shirley Newsome, and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), who has served as a board advisor for QCDC.

"James, thank you for allowing me to dream," she said. "Shirley, you continued guidance means more to me than you will every know. Toni, you have truly been a role model beyond reproach. You have inspired me to adopt the notion that failure is not an option."

Photo: Alex Fledderjohn

The panel preceding the awards ceremony hashed through difficult issues in difficult times.

A panel discussion that preceded the awards ceremony touched on how NCP has helped stabilize distressed communities, particularly as the recession has undermined the fragile process made during the past two or three decades.

"The cities with the least inequity and the least isolation do the best," said Robert Weissbourd, president of RW Ventures. "You are not wasting your neighborhood assets. Neighborhood strategies that are most successful are comprehensive and connect to the regional economy."

Weissbourd said that to be successful, communities must have a "centralized function" like LISC so they don't need to "reinvent the wheel," while recognizing that they have different characteristics. "It is not one-size-fits-all," he said.

Initiatives like NCP and the Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation recognize these principles, Weissbourd added, predicting that when the economy improves, that combination of initiatives "could be as big as the Burnham Plan" in transforming Chicago and its communities.

"We are a collection of Burnham Plans in the neighborhoods," said Raymundo, who also participated in the panel. "We are not just looking at the needs, but the assets."

For the full story on CNDA, please see www.lisc-chicago.org

To see videos of the CNDA award winners, visit http://www.youtube.com/newcommunities

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