High Family Foundation awards $600,000 in grants for southwest Lancaster

Representatives from five Lancaster organizations were presented with checks to fund a number of revitalization projects in the Lancaster city's SoWe neighborhood. Mayor Danene Sorace and S. Dale High of the S. Dale High Family Foundation are pictured in the front row on the right. - (Photo / Becca Oken-Tatum)

Danene Sorace’s No. 1 goal as mayor of Lancaster is to strengthen its neighborhoods outside of downtown. Thanks to a number of grants from the S. Dale High Family Foundation announced Tuesday, that goal is being set in motion.

Becca Oken-Tatum

The five grants were announced by S. Dale High of the S. Dale High Family Foundation at a press conference at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lancaster on Tuesday evening. The foundation is a nonprofit funded by the High Companies.

“We’ve long believed that business has a role in helping to solve community problems,” High said.

But money is not what sparks change, he added. “The resources are not where major initiative begins. They begin with a vision. They begin with a group that cares deeply, and that’s conscientiously involved.”

High and Mayor Sorace credited the work of the Southwest Neighborhood Leadership board for identifying the priorities to address in the neighborhood and taking action through neighborhood cleanups and school events.

The neighborhood leadership board also developed a strategic plan in 2017, right in the same room at the St. Joseph Catholic Church where the press conference was held, Sorace said. Now, with $600,000 going to five Lancaster organizations and with the backing of Mayor Sorace, the plan will gain momentum.

Board vice president Emerson Sampaio expressed the sense of community pride that led the group to Tuesday’s announcement.

“It’s that focus on cultural diversity, and developing and promoting our vibrant entreprenuers within our neighborhoods that will help in fulfilling Mayor Sorace’s visions for a stronger neighborhood,” Sampaio said.

The grant announcement marked a significant accomplishment for Mayor Sorace, who is in her fourth week in office.

“It’s so fitting that we’re celebrating a neighborhood…that has put in a lot of work. And that work is being recognized by a philanthropist and business leader in our community,” Sorace said of High, who she described as a “kindred spirit” in their shared vision for Lancaster.

Sorace hopes the progress in SoWe will kick off similar efforts in every neighborhood in Lancaster.

“We’re more than just our downtown … even as hard fought as that was to get there. We’re thinking beyond the four blocks that is our downtown,” Sorace said.

High expressed similar excitement about Lancaster’s future, picturing an intentionally planned city and thriving neighborhoods in 2040.

He was jokingly reassured by Gene Duncan, president of the SoWe board, that he’d see results sooner than 2040, even in then next year or two.

Where is the money going?

Leaders from five Lancaster organizations described how they will spend the grant money in the SoWe neighborhood at Tuesday’s announcement:

  • The City of Lancaster was awarded $50,000 for the Corridor Improvement Project focused on West King and Manor streets leading into the city. The funds will cover 130 pedestrian scale street lights and the planting of 98 trees on a mile-long stretch.
  • The Lancaster City Alliance received $100,000 to improve South Prince and South Queen streets in the SoWe neighborhood. Improvements will include facade renovations, installation of trash receptacles, new trees and neighborhood marketing efforts.
  • The Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership, which is leading the SoWe Lancaster Revitalization Strategy, will receive $50,000 every year for five years, starting in 2018, to invest in housing and safety in the neighborhood.
  • The Lancaster Lebanon Habitat for Humanity will receive $50,000 both this year and next to fund efforts to increase accessibility to its home repair program in SoWe and help revitalize South Christian Street. The grant will also fund its first “Rock the Block” party.
  • The Lancaster Redevelopment Fund was awarded $100,000 toward its Lancaster County Land Bank to acquire blighted properties and assist in their rehabilitation.

Becca Oken-Tatum
Becca Oken-Tatum is the web editor for the Central Penn Business Journal. She also coordinates and writes for CPBJ's monthly Young Professionals e-newsletter. Email her questions, comments and tips at btatum@cpbj.com.

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