Joel Phanod and Julia Clemons stand as examples of the kind of winning stories the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa literally hopes to deliver every day.
On Tuesday, hundreds heard Phanod, a Middleton High junior and Clemons, who works for Verizon, speak of how the CDC of Tampa has helped them overcome challenges at the organization's annual Nehemiah Legacy Luncheon in the TPepin Hospitality Center.
Phanod explained how the CDC helped him gain a job and enhance his outlook for the future. Clemons said the CDC guided her to self-sufficiency after she became a single mother and dropped out of college.
Both received standing ovations.
The success stories highlight the CDC's new 365 Wins campaign, which aims to boost economic development in some of Tampa's most challenging neighborhoods, including east Tampa, Sulphur Springs and the University Area. Ernest Coney, Jr., CEO for the corporation, told the audience his group wants to create such success stories every day of the year as the nonprofit doubles its efforts in areas of housing, job readiness and entrepreneurship.
An organization founded to birth hope into one of the city's poorest areas has helped turn it around and given much to its citizens. But there is still more to be done, Coney said.
"Let us rebuild so that there is no more reproach in Hillsborough County," he said.
Since 1992, the CDC has sought to curb poverty and the deterioration of neighborhoods.
Coney said numbers reflect the success the organization has enjoyed. More than 12,000 people have completed job training programs, the number of east Tampa residents attending college has doubled, and the number of high school graduates is up nearly 80 percent.
The CDC should be applauded for its efforts to create "communities of opportunities," as it moves the dial on poverty said keynote speaker Paul Weech, CEO and president of Neighbor Works America, a Washington-based community development nonprofit.
It's work that's too important to wait, he said.
"I hope, like me, that you are moving with a sense of urgency," he said.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill founder praised founder Chloe Coney, who also is district director for U.S. Rep. Cathy Castor, as a "role model" for her vison to create the CDC after seeing that the "spirit of the community was broken."
"There's much more to serving God and the community than talking about it," he said. "The work they do and what it means is that they see the needs and they're trying to bring healing."
Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]