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Tiffany Capers points at a map of Grier Heights

Community Leadership: CrossRoads Corporation

Community Leadership is a series of posts that highlight Community Quarterbacks from each United Neighborhoods geography. A Community Quarterback is a lead partner agency embedded in their community and dedicated to engaging residents, building local leadership and coordinating services among the funded nonprofit partners.

CrossRoads Corporation for Affordable Housing and Community Development, Inc. is a pillar in the Grier Heights community. Tiffany Capers joined CrossRoads Corporation as Executive Director nearly five years ago, but has always worked in the nonprofit or public sector. Capers was drawn to CrossRoads Corporation by the work they were doing in Grier Heights, but also the reason behind the work: a commitment to social justice and making sure all individuals have an opportunity to live a life they deserve.

Grier Heights was one of the first two partner communities in United Way of Greater Charlotte’s United Neighborhoods initiative, launched in 2017. Through United Neighborhoods, United Way works alongside the community quarterback to convene and provide funding to nonprofits whose services address the needs identified by residents.

“As one of the United Neighborhoods organizations, we have access to a lot of support. It’s easy to feel very isolated as a nonprofit organization, it’s easy to feel like you’re fighting the world by yourself, even though you know that other nonprofits are doing similar work,” Capers said. 

“United Way really works hard to make sure we don’t feel like we’re on an island, not just financially, but even psychologically and socially, and we feel like we are part of a larger group.”

Capers leads the place-based work in Grier Heights using a broad approach to bring a variety of resources to residents and implement transformational change. 

“One of the ways I’ve described what we do is to say we were working on solving a Rubik’s Cube. In order to solve a Rubik’s Cube, you can’t just choose one side, you literally have to be working on all sides simultaneously to solve that puzzle,” Capers said, “and that’s what we want people to know – that we really are trying to work on all aspects when trying to solve our community’s problems.”

Serving around 3,000 residents in the community, CrossRoads Corporation focuses on providing resources related to education, healthcare, housing, economic mobility and social community cohesion. By listening to residents and framing their work around the Social Determinants of Health, Capers and her team are able to activate their mission of uplifting residents in all aspects of their lives and bring Grier Heights’ visions and dreams to life.

As a community quarterback, CrossRoads Corporation is the entity bringing services to the residents – weaving together nonprofit organizations whose missions align with the needs of the community and will work collaboratively with others – to create a strong network of support for the community and create sustainable change.

CrossRoads Corporation keeps their work resident-centered by asking residents directly, through an annual community assessment survey, how they can best empower and amplify their voices. They are always looking for different ways to connect, though, and plan to get started on new initiatives while coming up with new ways to build connections throughout the community.

Like any other nonprofit organization, CrossRoads Corporation does face challenges when working so closely with residents, especially those that have faced so many challenges in their own lives. 

“I think so many of our neighbors who have lived in poverty or experienced poverty, they are quite honestly so beaten down by the outcomes of their efforts, that there is a sense of ‘why try?’ So we really are committed to championing our neighbors to always try again. We’re here to assist, support and stand behind our community,” Capers said. “It really is about getting people to believe differently, to not only have faith, but also have hope that it can and will happen for you.”

Capers and her team want their residents to believe in their own worth and know that they are deserving of the best quality of life possible.

Looking ahead, one of Capers’s goals is to continue their current services, but approach those services through a two-to-three-year generation lens, considering both children and parents in their programming.

“We have a lot of young people who participate in programs at the Community Center, like Ms. T’s After School Academic Enrichment and Mentoring. We want to make sure that we are also providing services and support to their caring adult to make sure he or she has what they need to reinforce what is going on at the community center, but also to have what he or she needs just for themselves, to make sure they’re able to reach their fullest potential,” Capers said.

Along with introducing a generational approach to their work, Capers is focused on working towards long-term outcomes. While CrossRoads Corporation is bringing in resources, services and activities, they want to also receive good information from the residents and collect more data in order to continue putting the best programs out and tell stories of success and impact. 

“Are people earning a living wage? Have they improved their credit scores? Can they buy the houses that we’re building?” Capers said.

“Ultimately, I need people in this community to be healthy, I need them to be financially stable and I need them to be in the best position possible to buy some of the homes that we’re building.”

The place-based work Capers and CrossRoads Corporation are doing is going to take time; they did not get to where they are immediately and they will not get to where they are going immediately. 

“It’s going to take some investment in theory, testing and piloting, knowing there is a little bit of appreciation for risk and understanding that we are doing what we know to do today, based on information we currently have,” Capers said.

As CrossRoads Corporation gathers more information and builds stronger connections, the organization is going to pivot, make changes and modify their approach, making sure they are always providing exactly what the residents need and what will help them succeed. 

“We are grateful to United Way for investing in this organization, and in turn investing in the people, allowing us to tell our story and be more visible. It’s important to have United Way as a partner, given the long-standing tradition in the community and the reputation,” Capers said. 

“It also is a great responsibility; we really feel the weight of our mission and the importance of doing the work.”

Learn more about the work United Way is doing through United Neighborhoods today.