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A catalyst for community development: Selma’s Arsenal Place

A renovated building is helping change lives in Selma and Alabama’s Black Belt.

Since its creation in 2014 as Selma’s first business incubator, the nonprofit Arsenal Place has worked to help startup businesses get off the ground and running.

Now, the organization has expanded its presence and impact in a newly renovated, historic building, thanks to support from multiple partners, including United Way of Selma & Dallas County and the Alabama Power Foundation.

The restored building, at 22 Church St., is overflowing with potential and opportunity after extensive renovations that include new plumbing and electrical systems, new windows, and rollup doors. Most of the work and supplies were provided by local businesses and contractors.

The new home for Arsenal Place is also serving as a clearinghouse for other community organizations and initiatives – many linked to the Children’s Policy Council of Dallas County (CPCDC), which recently updated its name to Dallas County Children’s System of Services.

Among the programs that have moved in and are using the space: CPCDC’s Fatherhood Initiative, which aims to promote responsible and present fathers; an adult workforce development program; the Compass juvenile diversion program; and a teen pregnancy prevention program.

Bob Armstrong has been a Dallas County District Court judge since 2005 and is CPCDC chairman. He said CPCDC programs have made a positive impact in the county, helping significantly reduce juvenile crime as well as the number of young people being sent directly to prison. But even with all the programs’ achievements, Armstrong saw a need to bring them physically closer together to reduce obstacles for the people they serve, such as finding transportation to multiple locations. That’s how the idea of partnering with Arsenal Place developed. And it has worked seamlessly, he said.

Under the partnership agreement, CPCDC makes modest rent payments to Arsenal Place, which helps cover Arsenal Place’s maintenance and other expenses for the building.

The result: Arsenal Place has become a hub for positive change. Since the building opened, the community has seen tangible benefits from “CPC at Arsenal Place” programs. With a core value of “focusing on solutions, not problems,” the initiative, to date, has chalked up some impressive numbers, with 224 people from Dallas County and the Black Belt region directly benefiting. That number is projected to double in the upcoming fall season.

Here’s a breakdown of the support provided those 224 individuals:

  • 141 people, ages 16 and up, participated in workforce development programs. As a result, 66 of those found employment through programs at Arsenal Place.
  • 94 people completed soft-skills training that included job readiness and parenting programs.
  • 32 families, consisting of 64 individuals, were served through the African American Families Program. Each family received evidence-based programming to improve family dynamics, communication skills and school attendance.
  • 25 people received work certificates that show they’ve completed training to work in construction, food service and other fields.
  • 19 youths, age 18 and younger, were able to avoid juvenile prison by completing the “Risks and Decisions” counseling program and contributing more than 1,000 hours toward community cleanups through the Serve Selma community service program.
  • 12 people were awarded their high school diplomas, with 11 more in the process.
  • Nine people have completed, or are in the process of completing, their credentials as CDL drivers.

Plans have been announced to further expand Arsenal Place, with a fully operating second floor. The expansion would allow the facility to accommodate more programs that are cohesive with the current tenants.

“It’s really incredible to witness faith become sight,” Armstrong said. “This is a place where people can find hope, and hope is a powerful thing.”

To learn more about Arsenal Place, visit www.arsenalplace.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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