The College Hill Alliance recently released a report highlighting the alliance's first two years and the Knight Neighborhood Challenge. Beverly Blake, program director/Macon at Knight Foundation reflects on the challenge and the people behind it.
From the time I moved to Macon seven years ago, I have heard over and over again how much “potential” Macon has. But it seemed to me that no one was deliberately acting to realize that potential. That is, until in 2007 when a group of Mercer University students came up with an idea and plan to connect Mercer with historic downtown Macon and sold it to the president of the university and the mayor. As a result, through the College Hill Corridor effort and the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, together we are on our way to creating the future for Macon that we seek.
The key, as in any effort to create transformational change, is in the people. College Hill and the Knight Neighborhood Challenge have created the environment for new leaders to step up and make things happen. Young leaders just needed the chance to join the conversation and the resources to make their ideas come alive. The new leaders - both people who are new to town and those who have lived here a long time but had not yet been invited to become leaders - have come together make things happen. What College Hill has done is create everyday leaders - and there’s nothing better.
The numbers speak for themselves. Knight’s investment of $5.25 million and Mercer’s $5 million investment, as well as the visionary leadership of Mercer President Bill Underwood and his team, have catalyzed over $23 million in commercial, residential and infrastructure investment. Over the past two years, the Knight Neighborhood Challenge has awarded grants, large and small, of over $1 million. There have been more than 41 College Hill events attracting 16,320 attendees, creating 1,091 volunteer hours and generating $28,400 in sponsorships.
But the success is about much more than the numbers. It’s the change that I see in the people here - a sense of hope, of what can be for the future of Macon and the tenacity and initiative to make it happen. It is happening!
Knight invests in projects that lead to informed and engaged communities. But truth be known, Knight really invests in the vision, aspirations and actions of people who will change the world, in our part of the world. Knight Foundation and the everyday leaders of Macon are a powerful combination that will take this community forward.