South Phoenix Ambassadors Join Forces with RDF
South Phoenix is home to a very diverse community and has done its best to keep pace with the growing city of Phoenix. I was born and raised in South Phoenix, and am proud of its growth and many changes over the years.
Going to school and living in the South side has opened my eyes to both the positive aspects of our strong culture and community but also the many needs it has in order to provide the quality of life that I have seen so many strive for not only for themselves but for future generations to come. With so many new developments and investments coming to our community like the South-Central light rail extension, the future of South Phoenix is brighter than ever.
Raza Development Fund and its South Phoenix Ambassadors
Raza Development Fund has worked closely with South Phoenix and its residents for over 20 years. They have collaborated with local leaders, small businesses, residents, schools and non-profit organizations in an effort to support the overall common good of the community by investing in the areas of education, housing, healthcare and small business.
Not only have they worked to help in these areas, but they have also provided much needed resources in collaboration with other South Phoenix leaders to better understand the ongoing needs of the community, in order to support and uplift the families who call this place home.
The South Central Collaborative (SCC) lead by Shannon Scutari is one of these partners that has pulled together a powerful collaboration to help center the voices and dreams of the South Phoenix community. The SCC has been at the forefront in assisting residents and small business owners better understand the current and future impacts of the more than one-billion-dollar infrastructure investment of the light rail.
One of the main goals of the SCC is to prevent business and residential displacement and reduce the negative impacts of gentrification. No one could have ever predicted that the threat of displacement to the businesses and residents of South Phoenix would have been accelerated by COVID-19.
RDF’s leadership knew something had to be done to help small businesses survive this pandemic and they immediately collaborated with the SCC and multiple South Phoenix leaders including Armando Ruiz, Petra Falcon, Shannon Scutari and Victor Vidales. These leaders became what RDF now calls their Ambassador program as part of the COVID-19 Hope Fund. This group came together at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to help RDF navigate the struggles and needs of the South Phoenix business community. These ambassadors were utilized as resources due to their relationships and connectivity to the people and small businesses in south-Central.
“The ambassadors were able to assist RDF in deploying nearly $600 thousand in grants within just a few weeks to support 69 small business with the hope and resources needed as a lifeline to survive and ultimately thrive during this health and financial crisis,” shared fellow ambassador Victor Vidales.
“These relationships were key in building trust and inclusion with community members that led to over $3 million in additional government support through the SBA economic relief fund and payment protection plan,” he emphasized.
RDF has modeled how valuable institutional support is to supporting local leadership that leads to strong relationships that are willing to collaborate for the common good in low-income communities, like South Phoenix. Without the COVID-19 Hope Fund’s Ambassador program these South Phoenix small businesses would not typically have had access to this level of capital and that is the truth for many underserved and underfunded Latino and low-income communities.
This strong relationship that RDF has with the ambassadors is key to this community’s current and future development with the unique talents, gifts, and insight each one possesses. Their positions in the areas of education, community organizing, real-estate, or non-profit will help institutions like RDF and others better engage with the South Phoenix community now and well into the future.
These ambassadors hold bi-weekly meetings to discuss the upcoming challenges and future community development projects that they are working on. Each time I attended their meetings, there were many different discussions held with these leaders for their solutions, opinions, and reflection. Although not all opinions and discussions were agreed upon within the ambassadors, they could all agree that the work they were doing was for the benefit of the community they love and hold close to their hearts.
With the effort’s brought forward with the help of RDF and the fellow ambassadors work, I am excited to see what the future of South Phoenix has in store.