Claudette Grant, Community Organizer at Friendship Court

PHA Claudette Grant and Sheri Hopper with kids
Sheri Hopper (left) and Claudette Grant (right) with the kids at the Friendship Court Community Center

Claudette Grant is the community organizer at Friendship Court Apartments.  She has been working at Piedmont Housing Alliance for a little over a year, having been selected to her role by a panel of residents in November 2015.  Claudette’s experience in housing services and planning is an excellent match for her role, which includes both managing the community center and organizing and sustaining resident participation in planning and implementing the redevelopment of Friendship Court. She oversees the day-to-day operations at the community center with help from two other part-time staff members, Sheri Hopper, community outreach assistant and Tory Twitty, activity coordinator.  They work together to ensure that residents have a safe place for their kids to come after school for snacks and enrichment programs as well as a host of other programs, partnering with other local groups like ReadyKids, CHIP, Portico Church, PVCC and Charlottesville Parks and Recreation.  Claudette also works closely with the Friendship Court Advisory Committee who is providing guidance to inform the different physical and programmatic aspects of the redevelopment; in fact, Claudette organized the election for the seven resident members of the Advisory Committee. She also works with the Youth Leadership Team to equip them with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with a particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming.

ReadyKids educators are on-site weekly to work together with children and adults alike who participate in activities that include everything from math and music to reading, art, and just plain play. The Program Educator and Family Coordinator work together to provide a program that promotes mutual understanding and opportunities to socially mingle with other kids and caregivers, which is what connecting with the community is all about.  Claudette says she’s excited to be re-engaging with another nonprofit focused on children’s healthy development, CHIP, to work more one-on-one with families.

Volunteers from Portico Church come to the community center to help and tutor kids in the afternoons, assisting them with their homework and reading and teaching.  Portico Church has also partnered with Piedmont Housing Alliance to hold a back-to-school event at Friendship Court over the years that has gathered other local neighbors together to create and celebrate community.  In August of last year, they held their 2nd annual back-to-school “Love the Court” event that was a great success.

KidsCollege@PVCC is offering their Spring Break Academy to the Friendship Court community at the beginning of April. Tory and Sheri will be helping families register their kids for “3-D Terrain Exploration,” a hands-on exploration of 3-D programs and gaming fun for 3rd-6th graders.  This partnership has been a great opportunity for kids at Friendship Court to do something educational and interesting during their time off from school.

While these types of events happen at Friendship Court, Ms. Regina from Charlottesville Parks and Rec is also a presence three times a week providing afterschool enrichment programs for the kids.  She plans, with Sheri’s help, monthly field trips for the kids as well as other special celebrations that help provide the kids with support and guidance throughout the school year.

The Friendship Court Athletic Club (FCAC), formed last year, is an afterschool program that is helping youth work on athletic training through running activities and obstacle courses to build not only their stamina but also their self-confidence.  A soccer clinic has also started recently at Friendship Court thanks to some community members that are trying to help support another popular activity for the youth of Friendship Court.

Claudette has been pleased to assist in implementing a more robust food network for the kids who spend their after school time at the community center and often arrive hungry.  A healthy and substantial afterschool snack is now served, as well as hot meals several nights of the week.  The kids are excited and more engaged than ever. This is another way Piedmont Housing Alliance supports the 150 families who live at Friendship Court.

Claudette plays a large role in getting the community at Friendship Court and other stakeholders involved in the redevelopment of the almost 40-year old property. In 2019, Piedmont Housing Alliance will have the opportunity to redevelop the site.  Goals for the new Friendship Court include mixed-income housing in a mixed-use community, preserving all 150 units of Section 8-assisted housing, and adding more affordable and workforce housing, along with market-rate housing. The aim is to create new opportunities and to connect Friendship Court physically, economically and socially to the rest of Charlottesville.  The Friendship Court Advisory Committee, including residents elected by their neighbors, has been essential to the creation of the master plan, advising the design team and carrying ideas both to and from the community. Their participation and leadership continues into the next phase of implementation.

Piedmont Housing has contracted with Maryfrances Porter, of Partnerships for Strategic Impact, to guide the Friendship Court Advisory Committee in identifying the best models and partners for creating an Early Childhood Education Center and a Workforce Development Program as part of the redevelopment of Friendship Court. Two working groups have formed that will provide valuable insight and guidance as action plans are made for both goals.

The future of Friendship Court is also being discussed by the Youth Leadership Team, a motivated group of young people who have been meeting since September and are an important part of resident engagement in the redevelopment process.  These youth members are gaining valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.  They are the future of Friendship Court and are excited to start on some of the initial plans for the redevelopment to include building flower boxes and also installing benches in some locations around the property.

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming years at Friendship Court, and Claudette and her team will play a significant role in the redevelopment.  Claudette says, “It’s been fun to hear people’s positive reactions to the Master Plan.  They can see things are starting to take shape.”

Thanks to Claudette and her team for their great work!

Mark your calendars for March 23 to watch Terri Allard’s Charlottesville Inside Out, featuring Claudette and Sheri in a segment dedicated to the work Piedmont Housing Alliance does throughout the community.