Rebuilding Community

by Pastor Andre Alexander

Tabernacle Community Development Corporation (TCDC) was birthed from getting to know people from the Tabernacle Church, who said they needed quality housing, health care resources and safe spaces. From that feedback, we formulated a plan, which started with community block parties and back-to-school drives. In 2016, TCDC purchased its first property in partnership with and funding from Brace for Impact. This first housing project, a two-family unit, took approximately 11 months to renovate, and an approximately $110,000 investment.

Tabernacle Community Development Corporation’s mission is to eliminate poverty as well as social exclusion by improving the social, educational, and economic infrastructure which will lead to self-sufficiency. A key element of that mission is community revitalization in the Jeff Vanderlou, The Ville, and Greater Ville neighborhoods by creating quality affordable housing options while reducing vacancy.  The housing initiatives have led to job creation for local residents along with programming for tenants to aid with life skills as well as legacy planning for the future of their families. Currently TCDC owns 45 properties and has completed 13 renovations, served 34 families, boasts an 80% minority participation rate on construction projects, and created almost 100 construction jobs.

It is important to understand the history of this great neighborhood. TCDC appreciates the richness of the area, works to preserves the history and not lose its essence. Jeff-Vander-Lou, roughly bounded by Dr. Martin Luther King Dr and Natural Bridge, Jefferson and Vandeventer avenues, was once one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city. In the time of racial segregation following the end of slavery, JeffVanderLou was originally designated as the city’s “Negro District” and was one of the only places where African Americans were allowed to own land. Historically, the area has had a mixture of residential, commercial, and recreational uses. Past corporations that operated in the neighborhood include the Coca-Cola Company, Brown Shoe, the American Wine Company, and Carter Carburetor. It also included a major anchor – Sportsman’s Park, home of the Browns and Cardinals. It was home to about 40,000 residents in 1950, the year the city’s population peaked.

The biggest challenge of bringing this community back to its glory days is access to capital. When we first started, we couldn’t get a bank to look our way. TCDC is only limited by funding and resources. We would love to see more help from the private sector. Without capital none of this work happens!

The other challenge is that the very people we are trying to help are sometimes the cause of challenges. We’ve had some issues with vandalism and theft. Also, sometimes there’s a challenge in getting our city, particularly some in government and in the corporate arena, to get them to see the intention and focus needed for north city. You must have the intention of all of those groups working together to improve north city. We have been honored to receive grants from Ameren and Midland Bank Foundation, $50,000 and $10,000 respectively, to address the needs of accessible, secure, and affordable housing, youth development programming and residential wrap around services for the community.

TCDC is about people!  We believe in the transformative power of the 3 Es:

  • Education – furthering education (college, technical, or trade school) and its impact on future career paths
  • Empowerment – When people take control of their life and live it with purpose/significance, it’s a life to be proud of
  • Economics – With literacy of finances and budgets, individuals can make life altering changes today and long into the future.
  • These much-needed support services are housed in a community “safe space”, called The Hub. The Hub represents a partnership of St. Louis organizations and individuals committed to lifting communities with vital services and programs. We foster community engagement and individual improvement through a variety of methods and specialized partners including career services, healthcare, legal counsel, speech therapy, and music programs.
Won’t you get involved in rebuilding this historic community? Donate, partner, and/or volunteer with Tabernacle Community Development Corporation –

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