By Barney Blakeney
Since being designated a 501c3 non-profit in 2004, Metanoia Community Development Corporation in North Charleston’s Chicora/Cherokee neighborhood has worked to fulfill its mission to invest in neighborhood assets to build leaders, establish quality housing and generate economic development. January 8, Ingevity announced a $400,000 gift to assist Metanoia in that mission. Ingevity, headquartered in North Charleston, develops, manufactures and brings to market products and processes that help customers solve complex problems. Its gift will be used to fund Metanoia’s early childhood education program at the soon to be renovated former Chicora Elementary School building located 1912 Success St. in the Chicora/Cherokee community.
In 2017 Metanoia partnered with the City of North Charleston – which acquired the property from Charleston County School District – in an agreement to renovate the building constructed in 1935 as a center for community resources. The project is estimated to cost about $17 million that will be raised through tax credit financing, conventional financing and from philanthropic contributions. Metanoia CEO Rev. Bill Stanfield said fundraising began last summer. About half the money has been raised, he said. He hopes construction can begin by mid-year and be completed in 2020.
The 64,000 s.f. two-story structure will be divided into three wings which house an early childhood education center for 95 students (most slots will be dedicated to neighborhood children who will receive tuition scholarships), 23,000 s.f. of rented office space dedicated to nonprofit organizations and 11,000 s.f of space used as studios for artists. It also will house a 5,000 s.f. performing arts center.
“We are thrilled by this generous donation from Ingevity,” said Stanfield. “Their support is a major boost to our effort to create the region’s only A-rated early childhood education program serving low income students. This gift shows how powerfully Ingevity lives its values, and will significantly aid our efforts to renovate the space later this year.”
The Metanoia philosophy uses people (human assets) or places/organizations/things (physical assets), discovering and growing those assets to create sustainable change in neighborhoods by listening to the residents that actually live in them. Metanoia’s first year in the community was spent listening to community members. It found one of their chief concerns was having a safe place for their children to go after school. This led to Metanoia’s first initiative: the Young Leaders, a leadership-based afterschool program for elementary school students.
The philosophy acknowledges residents are the real experts on neighborhoods. Over the years, neighborhood residents have directed Metanoia’s work and guided the expanding scope of initiatives that included the construction and sale of four affordable homes since Metanoia was begun in 2001.
Stanfield said, “As far as an overall goal – what we want people to be able to say years from now is that the work we are doing now led to a positive healthy mixed income community where lower income people had a stake and ownership within their own community and, even as investment moved through the neighborhood, we were able to keep a significant amount of housing and opportunities in place that are geared to the current residents of the neighborhood. If we see the neighborhood become nicer, but the current residents who are here now aren’t here to enjoy that change, we have failed at our mission. The renovation of old Chicora and the affordable housing we are building around the school will be essential to this effort.”