Born and raised in rural Haiti, Clement Daniel, founder of Urban Development Community Corporation, was influenced at a young age by his father's philanthropic ways, generosity and active status in the community. After moving from New York to the Orlando area, Daniel put the wheels in motion to follow in his father's footsteps and give back to a community he deeply cared for.
Tanesha Lewis, co-founder and current president of Urban Development Community (UDC), shared the story behind the organization and what they hope to accomplish as they work towards supporting a variety of causes.
"After working for retirement communities for a few years, I looked at getting into the non-profit world," Lewis said. "I really enjoyed helping people and wanted to find something similar. I was on Craiglist looking at job postings and came across an opportunity posted by Clement. He needed someone to help him start this non-profit. I immediately reached out, we got together and hit it off."
According to Lewis, the concept behind UDC originated in 2016. However, the organization did not become a legal entity until April 16th, 2018. As a 501(c)(3), UDC receives the majority of its revenue through fundraising. Current programs they support including, job placement programs, ESL classes for non-native speakers, veteran services and job connections for former inmates. They also have a program called Tacos For a Cause, where they attend various community events and raise money through the sale of tacos.
As Lewis shared, running a non-profit and holding down a full-time job can be extremely challenging. Nevertheless, she's committed to UDC's mission and has a true passion for helping others.
"I do computer support full-time for a local tech company," she said. "Any spare time I have is devoted to UDC. Locating the grants that we need and understand how the government works has been the biggest challenge. I've never been big into politics, but in this arena you have to dive in and learn how to navigate it. It's very taxing, but it's worth it. Knowing that something I said or did changed someone's life is very rewarding."
Looking ahead, Lewis, and the rest of her team, are committed to growing UDC and impacting more people throughout the community. They've recently partnered with a social media marketer to extend their reach and have an ultimate goal of building a transitional facility to help those in need of job placement and basic necessities, such as food, clothing and shelter. Both Lewis and Daniel, who's currently sidelined with a medical issue, would also like to eventually work full-time for UDC.
As Lewis explained, homelessness is not a one size fits all description. "There are many levels of homelessness," she said. "We want more people to become aware of the less fortunate in our community who are borderline homeless or on the brink of homelessness. These people need our support as well.
Lewis offers some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who might be hesitating to take the plunge. "Ask yourself, 'What's stopping me?'," she said. "Really think about why you haven't started yet and write down those reasons. Once you do that, you can develop a plan to get past those obstacles or hesitations. Too often in life we see things as larger than they really are. Sometimes the answers are simple and they're often right in front of us."
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