By Brittany Kirke
The mission – to bring together community partners to identify solutions to meeting the needs of our most vulnerable communities and thereby creating resilient and strong neighborhoods. To do this, It takes partnerships from every corner of the community including churches, businesses, and government. And in the middle? A leader who understands how to collaborate with these partners to solve issues and find solutions to help the community grow. In Bay County, that person is Janice Lucas, Executive Director of LEAD Coalition. This year, LEAD (an acronym for Leadership, Empowerment, and Authentic Development) has tackled major initiatives.
Starting with COVID 19 at the beginning of the year, LEAD is the anchor organization for our local Resilient American Communities (RAC), a public-private consortium focused on COVID 19 prevention efforts and increasing social equity for our disenfranchised communities. LEAD and partners organized Vaccine Clinics and distributed COVID Monitoring Kits, vaccinating more than 2,500 citizens. Since summer, LEAD and partners have organized Testing Clinics. Pivotal to LEAD’s launch into COVID initiatives was the development of a COVID dashboard on the local RAC website that tracked COVID stats and provided important community information.
While tackling COVID 19, LEAD received a grant from the Emergency Solutions Grant Fund and in June launched the “Better Life Homeless Solutions Program” to address the needs of homeless individuals in Bay County. This work requires the staff to be ready at a moment’s notice to manage a call for help. The program provides hygiene products, food, emergency shelter, housing placement and assistance to find work.
This year, LEAD, in partnership with Macedonia Church and Cornerstone Trust, granted micro-loans of $5,000 to three local businesses in the Glenwood area.
The crown jewel achievement for LEAD this year was receiving a $10,000 pledge from Gayle Littleton to create the Ginger Littleton Youth Development Fund. Gayle wanted to honor her mother, an educator/advocate for our youth for more than forty years. This fund represents another opportunity to create equity and support our youth in our most vulnerable communities. Janice was challenged to raise matching funds, and in one night raised over $7,000.
LEAD will continue its mission and if you would like to support this outstanding organization, please visit leadabetterlife.org to donate.