Phoenix Initiative

St. Dominic’s Deidre Bell and Bill Scruggs, Origin Bank’s Laura Greer, FRF”s Jim Wilkirson, Origin Bank’s Larry Ratzlaff, and St. Dominic’s Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth and Claude Harbarger with a cedar tree to be planted, commemorating the occasion.

St. Dominic Health Services has renewed their commitment to Fondren and in cooperation with Fondren Renaissance is asking our neighborhood’s houses of worship to join them in this worthwhile endeavor of taking “mission” to heart.

Begun in 2006 with $250,000 in seed money from St. Dominic’s and a focus on the West Side of Fondren, the Phoenix Initiative provides a four-to-one matching grant for owner-occupied residences to provide facade improvements. Facilitated and managed by Fondren Renaissance, this program is getting another shot in the arm – to the tune of $96,000 – but with a caveat: St. Dominic’s is asking the neighborhood’s churches to provide a dollar for dollar match.

Deidra Bell, St. Dominic Executive Vice President and CFO says the move is in an effort to stretch the health provider’s dollars and find a support system. Citing fifty-six homes that have been rehabbed through Phoenix thus far, Bell said it’s “wonderful what has happened here over the years through this program. You now see pride of ownership in what was once a dilapidated area.”

Jim Wilkirson, Fondren Renaissance Executive Director, issued a challenge to the faith community. “There’s always strength in the royal priesthood,” he said, asking, “Consider this as a very viable mission in your own back yard that could make a large difference in someone’s life. One at a time, with a group of you, we can do many things. Take this back to your congregations and let them see what a difference you can make in Fondren.  Mission is not always far away; it begins at home.”

St. Dominic’s says there is no time limit on the funds and that they will dole out monies as matching donations come in. In the program’s early days, the total grant was just over $6,000, but with inflation and materials cost, that amount could be increased to $7,000. So, for every grant approved by Fondren Renaissance, half of the matched funds would come from a church and the remaining half from St. D.

Bill Scruggs, a project coordinator for St. Dominic’s, was a Fondren Renaissance board member during the program’s original run from 2006 to 2009. “I don’t want this to stop,” he said. “It’s a great thing and I see the fruits of our labor. I’m hopeful Phoenix will continue finding the right partnerships with the right people.”  Of the fourteen Fondren area churches that attended the announcement luncheon, five have already stepped up to the plate to make a commitment to the project.

And now the corporate sector is helping the non-profit find more funds. Larry Ratzlaff, Mississippi President of Origin Bank, who is building a branch on Fondren’s edge in The District at Eastover, has presented a check for $12,000 to The Phoenix Initiative.

“We are humbled by coming to the table of a project like The Phoenix Initiative and admire the work St. Dominic’s and Fondren Renaissance has done,” Ratzlaff said. “Phoenix has been a tremendous blessing to this part of community. Origin is blessed to be a part and looking forward to being here.”

Applications for Fondren homeowners are available here or by contacting the Fondren Renaissance office at 601.981.9606 or Bill Scruggs at 601.497.2806.

A special thanks to our partners: St. Dominic Health Services, Inc., Origin Bank, Broadmeadow United Methodist Church • Fondren Church • Fondren Presbyterian Church • Meadowbrook Church of Christ •  North Ridge Church • St. James’ Episcopal Church • St. Luke’s United Methodist Church • St. Richard’s Catholic Church • The Journey • Woodland Hills Baptist Church

© 2016, Fondren Renaissance Foundation