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January 5, 2023

Main South ambassador program avoids layoffs, funded under larger empowerment initiative

PHOTO | COURTESY MAIN SOUTH CDC Main South neighborhood ambassadors aim to help provide a welcoming environment in Worcester's Main South neighborhood.

The Main South Neighborhood Ambassador Program has been saved, after nearly running out of funding at the end of 2022.

The Main South Community Development Corporation in Worcester has received a $350,000 Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for the Main South Empowerment Project.

The Main South Empowerment Project is a collaboration between the Main South CDC, the Regional Environmental Council, the YMCA of Central Massachusetts, and The Village, and emerged out of the Main South Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) Partnership created by MassDevelopment, according to a statement from CDC.

“It is focused on investing in the low-income, [Black Indigenous people of color] residents of Main South, and builds the capacity of local partners to support community members to reduce involvement in the justice system by creating increased workforce development and employment opportunities directly in a neighborhood that has been disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system,” reads the statement.

Part of the funding is for operating funds for The Village, an Afrocentric community organization. According to The Village’s Facebook page, it connects BIPOC groups, healers, and individuals whose work is rooted in racial justice, learning, creativity, community, and healing.

The entire empowerment program will give youth in the neighborhood access to part-time employment and training for job hunting, training and job placement for lifeguards, employ BIPOC members of the community impacted by the criminal justice system, and enhance community building in the neighborhood, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development website.

As part of the grant announced Dec. 21, the Main South Neighborhood Ambassador Program will receive six months of funding, which will keep the two full-time workers employed. That ambassador program was threatened with losing funding provided by MassDevelopment when the Main South district graduated from the TDI program in June.

“Now we must focus our advocacy and fundraising efforts on the sustainability of the [ambassador] program for the Summer and Fall of 2023,” said Casey Starr, director of community initiatives for the Main South CDC.

The Main South neighborhood has long been one of the hardest areas of the city to establish upward economic momentum, as it ranks near the bottom in poverty rate, percent renters, and household income among the regions of Worcester. Among the reasons for this is the legacy of redlining decisions made in 1936 to limit financial assistance in certain areas of the city, as detailed in a December project from WBJ and the Worcester Regional Research Bureau.

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