Fredson Gomes
Fredson Gomes grew up in Brockton and graduated from Brockton High School. He always knew he wanted to give back to his community but he wasn't sure how to do it. While working in the public relations field in Boston, Gomes learned that Self Help Inc., an anti-poverty agency that serves Brockton and 30 area communities, received stimulus funds through a Community Services Block Grant that would enable it to establish a Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Brockton. Gomes knew that he had found his calling.

"I'm a Brockton boy," said Gomes. "I want to see the city do well."

CDCs have a long history of playing a role in the revitalization of a city. Brockton tried in the past to establish one but they never succeeded. This time, the stimulus award of $150,000 seemed like a good start to get this much needed project off the ground. Glen Ohlund was hired as the director of the CDC and Gomes is its Community Outreach Coordinator.

Glen Ohlund and Fredson Gomes at Self Help
"One of the first things we did was find out why the other CDCs failed," said Gomes. "Most of it was because of a lack of funding and not understanding the importance of CDCs within a city."

Recovery Act Impact: Self Help

  • $362K: Head Start

  • $745K:Lead Hazard Control

  • $875K: Healthy Homes

  • $737K: Community Services Block Grant

  • $150K: Funds from the Community Services Block Grant used to establish the Brockton CDC

To that end, Ohlund and Gomes held a series of meetings within Brockton to learn what it is its citizens want and how they can help them revitalize their city. What emerged was that the center of the city, which has poverty rates of between 24 and 40 percent, was most in need of help. The pair decided to focus its initial efforts on this section of the city and then replicate their efforts in other parts once they have achieved success in that area. One of their first initiatives was a business plan training grant to local businesses. Part of the training includes a business plan competition, with the winner receiving a year's rent on a storefront in downtown Brockton.

"We started looking block by block," said Ohlund. "Downtown didn't deteriorate overnight and it won't come back overnight."

The pair have also met with local elected officials to demonstrate the importance of their work.

Fredson gomes and Glen Ohlund
"The Recovery Act funding was a need," said Gomes. "It allowed us the opportunity to sell the value of a CDC to the city of Brockton and to the community as a whole. People didn't know what the CDC was. It is about empowering the community. People who have been economically and socially marginalized will have a voice with the CDC. We are providing a voice to the residents of Brockton."

Ohlund agrees. "The goal all along is to allow greater self determination for the people who are experiencing Brockton."

The goal of the CDC, said both Ohlund and Gomes, is not to be needed. But they both acknowledge that that is a very long term goal. For now, said Ohlund, they want to improve the standard of living in Brockton, provide access to opportunities and create greater vitality in the city.

"We want to make Brockton a great place to live, then businesses will want to locate here," said Gomes.