United Way seeks to make impact on city with strategic initiative

United Way seeks to make  impact on city with strategic initiative
February 25
10:00 2021

The United Way of Forsyth County is rolling out a plan to help revitalize several neighborhoods in East Winston-Salem. Their strategic initiative, “Place Matters,” aims to make a permanent impact on the community by combating several issues that have been plaguing the area.

The Place Matters initiative began five years ago and comprises 13 neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city. Any service provider must do work from within those 13 neighborhoods and the initiative is governed by a Residence Impact Council (RIC) and they have the final say on what programs get funded.

“For example, if there is a program that wants us to provide financial stability, it goes through a review process and the actual residents make the decision on how much to fund in terms of that program,” said Cedric Parker.

Incorporated into the initiative is a faith component led by Parker, faith-based engagement coordinator for the United Way. “We practice asset-based community development and so one of the strongest assets is the Black church,” said Parker. The Black church has been the institution that has allowed us as a community to flourish, not only from religion, but also politics and education. Now identifying those assets within those 13 communities, we can better see how we can provide those services that fit within those initiatives.”

The United Way is approaching the initiative from several different areas. Under/Unemployment, Education, Housing, and Healthy Living are the four general areas of the initiative. There are several agencies underneath each area that the RIC have deemed necessary for the community.  

The initiative is currently in a funding cycle, so the RIC will convene to analyze the agencies and programs to see if the goals have been met and if so, they may be funded again if no other agencies will be looked at to be brought in.

According to Parker, the driving force for the initiative came from the president and CEO of United Way of Forsyth County, Cynthia Gordineer. Gordineer looked at the approach of the organization and saw changes were necessary.

“We looked into how to be more equitable when it comes to the work that we do,” Parker continued. “We very much see that (Hwy) 52 divide in Winston is real and if you look at one neighborhood in East Winston and compare the diversity in income from a neighborhood from the other side of 52, there is a drastic diversity and these are people with the same education but just from different sides of the track.

“We wanted to make sure that we addressed those issues with our programming and make sure it was resident led. So, Cynthia Gordineer and others went through an extensive process of finding out what was the right approach for Winston-Salem.”

The United Way of Forsyth County looked at other United Way organizations in other cities and adapted their approach specifically to Winston-Salem.

“It started off with a community survey with some students from Winston-Salem State and Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods,” he said. “That’s our neighborhood resource in connecting us with the community because we know they know best in terms of how to galvanize the community.

“Basically, that was our initiative to get things started and the community identified these 13 areas and priorities that they wanted to see in their neighborhoods, so it’s all resident and neighborhood led. It’s not the United Way telling them what they need, it’s actually the community telling us what they need.”

Thus far, the most important component of the initiative has been housing, said Parker. The United Way has a partnership with Habitat for Humanity in the Bowen Park neighborhood. 

“Our first push was housing,” said Parker. “We actually went through a slower process when it comes to housing, because they (RIC) were not comfortable with the proposals, so we put it off and came back with stronger proposals. 

“Before that partnership, there was not a new build in Bowen Park for 50 years,” he went on to say. “I believe we are up to eight new houses that have been built in Bowen Park and we see that as a win by increasing homeownership. We’re also looking to provide efforts to beautify the neighborhood, so it’s not just putting new build up, it’s also making sure the neighborhood looks well.”

Many of the neighborhoods involved in the initiative are around the Smith Reynolds Airport. The United Way chose the neighborhoods by researching the areas that needed uplifting and incorporating areas that are already established.

“It was a process that we took some time to consider,” Parker said about the neighborhood selection process involved in the initiative. “We wanted to make sure the project was successful, so when we looked at the 52 divide, there was some data and research that showed these were areas that fell within the poverty level, but we also wanted to make sure we had some established areas as well, because we figured that would be a more successful model.

“It’s harder sometimes, when you deal with generational poverty, to see the needle move and everybody wants to see the needle move at some point. So, having other neighborhoods that are established helps us when we go back and look at the numbers to say ‘Hey, we’ve actually moved the needle.’ We wanted to make sure that these neighborhoods were those that were underserved and also had strong community support as well.”

There is no timetable for this initiative, Parker said. The United Way is there for the long run, until they are no longer needed. The goal is to move this project to other areas once it’s completed, but first want to see the target areas of this initiative thriving once again.

For more information about Place Matters, dial 211 or call Cedric Parker at 336-721-9311. You can also visit the United Way website at

About Author

Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors