If the Center for Transforming Communities (CTC) is a spark to help ignite strengths and gifts in neighborhoods of Memphis, then the collaborative spirit Dianne Love sees in Hickory Hill is a sign of that fire burning brighter every day.
Competition gives way to cooperation in this part of Memphis as people from all walks of life gather under the auspices of Communities of Shalom to envision what is possible in the neighborhood while working together to make that vision a reality.
The Making it Happen Shalom Zone and its team of dedicated volunteers offer enrichment programs for youth and opportunities for adults to map their own assets and discover new paths in life. Dianne says what encourages her most is the fact that everyone is working together to achieve a common goal.
People tend to be territorial, she says, but in her Shalom Zone they have pushed aside any thought of ownership in the transformation process to focus on the strengths and assets of all partners and community members.
“We are from all walks of life at first contact,” Dianne says of the team of volunteers, noting that when the group first got together it was associated foremost with Capleville United Methodist Church.
“Over time, as we have worked these programs, the thing that is encouraging to me is that we have merged across the lines of denominations,” she says, and several churches and community organizations are working together.
The work is not about what is best for the agenda of individual partner organizations, she says. The focus is entirely on what is best for the neighborhood, and that focus is attracting more interest all the time.
"We’re having more and more people and organizations who want to join and be partners," she says. A growing relationship with the Police Department adds another layer of depth to the work of transformation in the neighborhood, for example.
Dianne was recruited by the CTC to the Communities of Shalom as president of the Parent Teacher Association at her children's school, and is site director for the Making it Happen Shalom Zone.
When asked about the greatest assets she sees in the group and the work it is doing to help catalyze change, she says it can be seen in the lack of competition among many partners.
The partners “want what’s best for the community, at any cost," she says. "What can we do to make the community whole? What kind of resources can we offer to the community?"
Though times are tough, Dianne sees enrichment programs connecting the assets of youth and adults alike, and a diverse team of people are all offering skills to back these programs up.
"We kind of have our own niches of what we do . . . and as we put together those parts, it makes a whole," Dianne says.