At April’s Indy Lunch for Parks event, Amina Pierson pointed at a 10-foot indoor jungle-gym and told a colleague, “I want to try that!” When others nearby weren’t ready to join her, Pierson took on the challenge herself, smiling confidently when she accomplished her goal. Many in the field of community development will relate to her confidence — it is essentially required by the job. With four years under her belt as the executive director of Martindale Brightwood Community Development Corporation (CDC), it’s this drive to take on new challenges that continues to push Pierson forward.

Pierson said that working with Martindale Brightwood CDC in her previous banking-sector role is what put the organization on her radar. In her current role, she continues to prioritize affordable housing, business development, and education for the surrounding community. A recently completed project combined several of these priorities by integrating six new units of affordable housing with a new community garden space for shared events and education.

“It’s all part of the same village,” Pierson. “We’ve improved the ability of our neighbors to live in safe, stable housing while also offering community classes these past two summers on topics such as gardening, financial literacy, farming, prescription management, and even yoga.”

The Martindale Brightwood CDC applied for a loan at 4 percent simple interest through Citizens Energy Group’s Investment Collaboration on Neighborhoods (ICON) program to complete the housing project. Pierson describes it as the CDC’s first “holistic” project, combining multiple improvement elements, and enabled by a loan that can be used to attract other types of funding. Martindale Brightwood CDC will soon borrow ICON funds again for a new effort combining housing and a designated community room.

“On our projects, we use the ICON loan as the first funds in,” Pierson said. “With this demonstration of trust from Citizens Energy Group, other organizations see that our projects are dependable and worthy of additional grants and loans.”

Pierson also noted that the ICON loan application is well-written; it asks only for what program managers need to know to approve the loan and doesn’t overburden the applicant with numerous or extensive reporting requirements.

“It’s the best-kept secret that they’re not trying to keep secret! This loan program can really be a door-opener for CDCs who may not be ready for other types of funding. I also suggest that CDCs could use this loan when they’re in a rebuilding phase or leadership transition as a simple way to access funding.”

For Pierson, the reward comes when the neighborhood truly understands that the CDC is working for and with them. She says the fulfillment runs deeper than the numerous challenges. And the opportunity to be a turnaround organization — offering empowerment and equity to her community — is worth the effort.

About ICON

The ICON loan program can be a valuable resource for CDCs working to improve the lives of families and individuals through affordable housing and community development projects. The program’s low, simple interest rates make it an attractive financing option for CDCs that struggle to access traditional sources of funding. Previous partners have included Hawthorne Neighborhood; Hearts & Hands of Indiana; Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) Indianapolis; and Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation. ICON’s redevelopment efforts are in keeping with the mission of Citizens Energy Group to enhance quality of life and economic development in the communities it serves.

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