Lifting Up a Community
You probably don’t need to hear another set of statistics on poverty to believe that it’s a problem in Orlando. Some think that the communities stricken with poverty are a result of an economically idle population, but according to LIFT Orlando, chronic poverty in Orlando is worsened by four complex social issues – concentrated poverty, generational poverty, toxic charity and gentrification.
The non-profit LIFT Orlando was started in 2012 after Tom Sittema, CEO of CNL Financial Group, gathered a group of prominent Central Florida business leaders like Andy Gardiner, Terry Prather, and Sandy Hostetter, and asked them, “Can the business community help solve some of our city’s most complex social problems?” The answer was a resounding yes.
With over 3,800 non-profits and charities in Central Florida, issues like chronic poverty and homelessness still remain a challenge. LIFT Orlando’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty through holistic neighborhood revitalization. In order to avoid contributing to the problem instead of solving it, LIFT Orlando partnered with the residents of the Citrus Bowl’s surrounding communities to develop a set of shared goals to accelerate their community’s transformation. Those goals include:
- Cradle to career education
- Mixed-income housing
- Community health and wellness
- Long-term economic viability
However, LIFT Orlando realized that in order to see effective change take place, their approach had to be different. Their research-based approach applies the following principles of holistic community transformation:
- Geographically Focused – By focusing on one specific area instead of a region, the impact is greater. LIFT Orlando is committed to the low-income areas surrounding the Citrus Bowl.
- Holistic Revitalization – Address the individual needs and physical environments impacting the surrounding community. This includes education, housing, health and wellness, and economic viability.
- Asset-Based Community Development – Doing things with the community rather than for the community.
- Collective Impact – Multiple organizations work together under a common agenda.
One way change has already taken place is through the renovation of the Citrus Bowl. Steven Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports and member of LIFT Orlando’s board, is dedicated to seeing the Citrus Bowl become an economic engine for positive transformation. Florida Citrus sports has already planned to use increased revenues to fund programs that benefit the children and families in the neighborhood.
LIFT Orlando is hopeful that this model will impact not only today’s generation but also generations to come.
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