In the early 1990s, Jessie Ball duPont Fund staff Sherry Magill and Mark Constantine met the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, who shared with them the exceptional community development work being done in Richmond by an organization called Local Initiatives Support Corporation — LISC. It was an encounter that would change the face of Jacksonville.
Today, LISC/Jacksonville is among the community’s strongest nonprofit organizations. Since its founding in 1999, it has made $22 million in acquisition and construction loans in greater Jacksonville, and is responsible for the renovation/construction and sale of 254 homes in underserved communities. It also has constructed eight youth athletic fields.
LISC is more than a home-builder. It invests in the whole neighborhood — in housing, in schools, in community facilities and in the nonprofit organizations that enable local residents to become “stakeholders” in their community.
“Bringing LISC to Jacksonville is among the Fund’s greatest achievements,” Magill says. But it was not an easy task.
Magill enlisted the help of the newly-created Jaguars Foundation and together, they convinced then Mayor John Delaney to invite LISC to Jacksonville. Joined by community leader J.F. Bryan, who was then the chairman of The Community Foundation in Jacksonville, and others, they raised the funds needed to open the office and hire staff.
“The first five years were very rough slogging,” said Magill. “There was no community development corporation market here. That had to be created. And we had to get investors, including the city, to be supportive.”
In 2004, then Mayor John Peyton agreed to send a team to visit Richmond and see the impact LISC had had on that city. They came home believers, and the city has been a steady partner with LISC since. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund also has remained a committed supporter, investing $2.55 million with LISC/Jacksonville through the years.
Today LISC is embarking upon a new venture, focusing on two Jacksonville neighborhoods and aiming for “wrap-around” investments that address not only housing but economic development, family income and wealth, access to quality education and healthy environments. LISC/Jacksonville plans to commit $20 million in loans in these two communities over the next three years.
And the Jessie Ball duPont Fund is on board. Said Magill, “I am an absolutely devoted believer in what LISC does.”