By Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo
PART 1 of 2
Partnerships and collaborations are local government’s most effective tools for impacting community and improving the lives of all its residents, especially those most vulnerable.
And, Deborah Embry has become a master at identifying and enlisting the support of intergovernmental agencies and community-based organizations in attacking and changing the “at risk” paradigm.
Currently the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Strategic Partnerships, and Grant Facilitator for the City of Racine, Wis., Embry is in a class all her own.
She was hired as the Grant Facilitator, two years ago, and soon after recognized that government could and should play a bigger role in strengthening its partners — community and faith-based organizations.
She developed a concept, modeled after the District of Columbia’s Office of Grants and Strategic Partnerships. She received funding this past fall from the U.S. Department of Health and Human –Recovery- Strengthening Communities Fund and launched the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships in February.
In fact, Racine was one of three recipients in Wisconsin to receive the Strengthening Community’s Fund grant out of the 84 that were awarded across the country.
“We learned in DC, at our orientation that there were 933 applicants!” Deborah’s dual titles mesh as both strengthen communities by building the Racine community and faith-based non-profits through public/private partnerships.
“My job entails directing the programming of the Office and grant-writing. We offer non-profits grant-writing workshops, and we’re planning a public/private partnership conference,” she explained.
“We have formed 3 cohorts that will focus on minority and women’s business development, a faith-based housing initiative and youth development. This collaborative will work closely together through 2010 to improve their ability to apply for and secure state, federal and national foundation grants of $50,000 or more.”
The Public/Private Partnership Conference will be in June. Embry is working with Julietta Henry from the Governor’s Office. They will bring in State agencies and have invited Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships, as the keynote speaker.
“The women and minority business development cohort is important to Racine. It is a partnership between the City Development Department, Racine County Economic Development Corporation, Small Business Development Corp., WWBIC, and Community Economic Development Corporation and hopes to spur job creation in the city,” she said.
The goal is to have “Racine known, throughout the state, as the model city for women and minority business development.”
Additional Mayor’s Office creations by Embry include her ACCESS Points and Benefits Navigator project, which is a partnership between the Racine County Workforce Development Center and Human Services that brings services to 3 of the City’s community centers.
For the first time, in Racine, residents will be able to go directly to community centers, get information about jobs, help with resume writing and interview skills.
They will also be able to start the employment benefits process, using on-line processing so they can have some of their paperwork done before going to County services.
“Bank on Racine,” another initiative, is designed to get more minorities to use banks and to open checking and saving accounts. This is designed to reduce the dependence on the check cashing businesses that are financially crippling for our communities, Embry said.
Since joining the City, Deborah Embry has successfully garnered over $5 million in federal, state and foundation funding. She also coordinated the City’s Recovery efforts, last year. Her accomplishment is unprecedented!
“In my role with the City, I have made anti-poverty initiatives a priority. Located between Milwaukee and Kenosha, Racine is a community that has suffered economically, like many rust-belt cities.
“Unfortunately, the City leads the State of Wisconsin in many social and economic risk factors. Racine has the second highest unemployment rate (16%), the highest infant mortality rate, the highest teen pregnancy rate, the second highest drop out rate, etc”
Mayor, John Dickert, has been aggressive about changing the statistics that encumber the city’s growth; and he and Deborah Embry work to make Racine a model city.
“Racine is manageable,” Deborah said. “ Our pockets of poverty are smaller. And our ability to affect the primary areas of health, housing and education are doable. The initiatives, out of the Mayor’s Office, are focused and intentional and now match our passions, so changes are inevitable.”
Deborah Embry remains zealous about achieving these goals through collaborative partnerships and follow-through.