Resilient Neighborhoods: New director Fikre Prince wants to build on this Detroit nonprofit's legacy

The Detroit produce market, Peaches & Greens, is enjoying a nice change-up this year in terms of the access it provides to local residents. 

It has a brand new silver food truck to supplement the fruit and vegetable offerings that are available at it's brick-and-mortar store at 8838 Third Ave. in central Detroit.P&G Mobile Market In the past, Peaches & Greens has operated food trucks that roamed around local neighborhoods like an ice cream truck, but it's new "Mobile Market" works a little differently."

"It has three designated stops In Detroit," says Peaches & Greens manager Uclesha Ray. "It doesn’t go through the neighborhood. It’s a new truck and it carries produce and City Kids Soup. Customers can come by and shop." 
 
The Mobile Market sets up shop at the corner of Capitol and Patton streets on Tuesdays, on 16251 Bringard Drive on Wednesdays, and at Gordon Park (at Clairmount Street and Rosa Parks Avenue) on Thursdays. Each of these weekly stops last from 2 to 5 p.m.

Fikre Prince is executive director of Central Detroit Christian, the community development organization that oversees Peaches & Greens. He says the new mobile market system was instituted this year to make it easier for residents to get healthy food in the area of Detroit that his nonprofit serves.

"One of the things that we noticed last year is that folks need greater access to quality produce, so we launched into that. introducing our produce market in that way. So far, it's taken off and people have really responded to it. We're really excited." 

A Year of Change

Peaches & Greens new mobile market isn't the only big change at Central Detroit Christian this year; there's also Prince himself, who stepped up as the nonprofit'sFikre Prince new director several months ago.  

Before coming to CDC, Prince served as a longtime pastor with Evangel Ministries, where was active with ministry, technological development, and media production. Prince has an economics degree from Wayne State University, and  has a background in the banking and mortgage fields including community reinvestment work with Charter One.

Prince first came on board with CDC in April 2019, as operations director. In September of last year, he began a co-directorship with Lisa Johanon, the nonprofit's founder and long-serving executive director. Then in January of this year, Prince took the reins of the organization. Johanon, however, continues to be involved with the nonprofit as its housing director and as a valuable source of wisdom for the new director. 

Prince's initial time working with CDC was somewhat chaotic, due to factors beyond his control like the unexpected passing of Tony McDuffy, a key employee at the nonprofit, and the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since he became executive director, however, things have been running more smoothly.

"After January, I feel things are a little bit easier than what my first 18 months were," says Prince. "Being able to manage and work with the food distribution, produce market, laundromat, childcare center and real estate along with the educational programs and youth programs we have, it is a big task. But I recognize it's a big job, and I enjoy it." 

Affordable Housing & Youth Development

The new director's work this year has included overseeing CDC's summer youth engagement day camp. More than 120 elementary school students participated in the six-week program, which includes literacy and nutritional education, as well asParticipants in a CDC youth event bible study. Beyond the curriculum, Fikre feels holding the camp this year provided participants a great opportunity to re-engage face-to-face with other youth after more than a year of pandemic-related isolation. 

This summer, the nonprofit also offered virtual career and college readiness training sponsored in partnership with the city's Grow Detroit Young Talent Program. Throughout the year, CDC has also continued regular services like its food distribution programs, which take place on Fridays and the third Monday of the month, and its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which kicked off last year.  

At the moment, CDC is also working on a pilot program to offer health and nutrition classes to middle and high school students at its Adamah urban farm . Right now, there are about a dozen youth involved with the program, but the nonprofit hopes to expand it to 45 participants over the next year.

"[We'll be] taking them into our commercial kitchens and teaching them how to cook foods, and we look forward to creating a recipe book with them," says Prince. "They'll get an opportunity to take those skills home and they'll get paid for attending the classes." 

Under Fikre's watch, the community development organization has also been expanding its real estate portfolio, with the goal of expanding affordable housing options in the central Detroit neighborhood it services. The nonprofit currently owns 230 housing units, the majority of which are located in the city's Piety Hill/Virginia Park area. CDC is now focusing on renovating a 44-unit at 2295 West Grand Blvd. and building 32 new homes on vacant lots it owns in Piety Hill on Blaine and Gladstone Streets.  Right now, it looks like work on those projects will begin in early 2022 and could be finished by the end of the year.

Building on CDC's Legacy

Looking forward, Prince hopes to expand upon the vision that Johanon laid out for CDC when she established the community development organization. ThatP&G Mobile Market locations includes working to offer greater employment opportunities to neighborhood residents, including those just starting out and those returning from incarceration. Prince is also interested in greater collaboration with local public schools and charters, further expanding affordable housing opportunities, and finding ways to help the needs of the nonprofit's housing tenants with programming. 

Beyond that, Prince is simply thankful to have a chance to help others in the community where he lives.

"It's a great opportunity to be able to serve the community in this way. [We're] guided by Christian principles, so we just try to find as many ways as possible to love our neighbors and whatever hurdles we can remove out of their lives, that's a blessing to us.

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series that examines how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from the Kresge Foundation.

Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.
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