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June 22, 2021
Fig Authentic: Yadira Colon-Lopez, Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem
THE COMMUNITY ACTION DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION of Bethlehem (CADCB) has served the South Side since 1998. The nonprofit provides entrepreneurial support, housing rehabilitation, and community development projects that empower residents and enhance civic life on the South Side, and throughout Bethlehem. “Place-making,” Yadira Colon-Lopez calls it.
Yadira, who goes by Yari, first started working in communication and community engagement at CADCB eight years ago, and “fell in love with the South Side—the diversity, the culture, the food, the language, the music, the people.” A favorite part of working with CADCB, she says, has been “interacting with people that now I live next to,” and being a part of change in the neighborhood. “I love to see things that are not there yet, but could be,” she says. “Let’s look at this empty space, what can we do with it? How can it address one of our needs?”
Last year, Yari became Director. “During COVID,” she says, “the work that we’ve done might look different than it did in many years before, but it’s still the same driving heart.” What is different? A new “connectivity with the community.” The core of any CADCB project is active participation. “It’s definitely not just us,” Yari says. “It’s us together, alongside with our neighbors. They envision it with us. These committees are not just conversation: they propose and vote on projects, they put together proposals.” Proposals like the Commercial Lease Subsidy program, which offers 2-6 month lease subsidies for new businesses on the South Side and the Northside 2027 neighborhood, or the new Greenway Farmer’s Market.
"Together, we're creating the neighborhood and the community we want to see, and live in.”
The gift of working during COVID, Yari says, is bringing more people to the table. “We reached a different demographic… we wanted to engage parents and working people,” whose days don’t necessarily end at 5PM. This prevented them from attending community development meetings and making their voices heard. But now that these meetings are virtual, “they’re listening, they’re typing their questions, I’m sure if they unmute themselves you’re going to hear their kids in the background or the pot stirring as they’re cooking.”
Our community is truly invested, more people are driving more decisions now, and taking “ownership of what they want to see in the neighborhoods we serve. And together, we’re creating the neighborhood and the community we want to see, and live in.”
Read more about the organization at cadcb.org.