Alexandria has its first community and economic development corporation and it is run by Harambee Inc. a community service organization that was started as a ministry of Shiloh Baptist Church.
"Harambee means working together in Swahili,” said Carolyn A. Sweeting, Harambee’s president. “Our mission is to build community and to enhance the lives of low-income residents of the community. Harambee is an community development organization that serves as advocates, organizers, planners, developers and managers of community and economic development incentives…”
Harambee’s designation as a Community Housing Development Organization, CHDO, makes it eligible for federal funds under the HOME program, administered by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The group plans to build affordable housing units for senior citizens on property that is owned by Shiloh Baptist Church at the corner of Duke and West Streets in Alexandria’s old and historic district.
“One day several months ago, Mayor Kerry J. Donley came to me and expressed his concern about the fact that he had spent several hours that morning discussing parks for dogs when there are so many needs in our community concerning affordable housing,” said Rev. Lee A. Earl, Sr, the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. “Shiloh Baptist made a commitment 140 years ago to serve the community and this is another opportunity for us to make a contribution. Harambee’s designation as a CHDO is an important and historic designation that provides us an opportunity to expand our service to the community.”
TO MAKE THE venture a reality, Harambee and Shiloh partnered with LCOR, the developer of the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office. “It is very hard to say 'no' to Rev. Earl and we didn’t want to,” said William Hard, LCOR’s president. “We were pleased to help put together a development team and are looking forward to working with Harambee and Shiloh to make this project a reality.”
The project is just in the conceptual stage at this time. “These drawings are just concepts in the mind of our architect and we don’t want them to be too fixed in your minds because we are still working with the city and others to determine exactly how this project is going to go,” Earl said in response to a question about the design.
Barbara Ross, the city’s deputy director of planning, agreed. “We have just begun talking to Harambee,” she said. “While there is some flexibility with zoning, it currently would allow for 4.25 units to be constructed on this site. We are going to continue to work with Harambee throughout the planning process.”