For Bishop Ron Fisher, a pastor’s spiritual life easily intersects with his other roles in community and county service. From the pulpit to the floor of a town council meeting, the pastor promotes the same message—to seek equitable solutions for community problems.
To this end, each Sunday since 1990, Bishop Fisher preaches to his congregation at Faith Life Church in Chestertown and ministers to individual needs, may it be marriage or financial seminars.
His wide-spectrum community service has included work with the Town Council, sensitivity training for Chestertown Police, youth mentoring, and work with the incarcerated, Chestertown Equity Advisory Committee, to name a few.
The Equity Advisory Committee, part of the 18-month plan for the Town mandate “Chestertown Unites against Racism,” formed in 2020 and currently on hiatus, was created as a consulting group to help identify areas of inequity, research, inform, guide, and make recommendations to the town council.
Now, as the Chair of Upper Shore Community Development Partners, Fisher has a similar role, but one with a more direct approach. USCDP is designed not to duplicate services, but rather to create capacity, engage communities, and help organizations partner with one another. In addition, as a nonprofit, USCDP will be able to bring resources to our community – partner organizations, area nonprofits, and the Town – that are not currently available.
As Bishop Fisher mentions in the interview, USCDP was not founded to duplicate other area services but to support them and those in need of a particular service.
For example, Fisher cites the inability for some to understand the complexities of starting a business. USCDP would collaborate with SBDC, SCORE, and other entities to help provide services. Backlogs of people needing home buying assistance, including help with credit counseling and mortgage applications.
The USCDP would collaborate with other similarly focused organizations. USCDP will also work with the broader Chestertown nonprofit community to assist with organizational development, eliminate duplication of services through partnerships, and create fundraising capacity. Larger entities like the Town of Chestertown could benefit as a partner or client, gaining capacity and access to resources not currently available to municipalities.
USCDP was founded by Sallie Findlay, a Chestertown resident, working with founding consultants Rebecca Flora of ReMAKE Group, Sam Shoge of Rivers and Roads Consulting, and Rebecca Murphy of RCM Strategic Consulting, all of whom bring extensive experience, and are local to Chestertown. Together, they shaped the mission of the organization, to help “ALL residents, including Black and other people of color, have access to the funding, education, training, coaching and other resources necessary to have affordable homeownership opportunities, stable employment, and successful small businesses and entrepreneurship opportunities.”
Although Fisher was not on the USCDP Board for the three presentations made to the Mayor and Town Council earlier this year by the consulting team on USCDP’s behalf, his hope is that the community development corporation as a “convening organization” to assist the community will be seriously considered ARPA funding directly through the Town, in order for them to provide much needed capacity and technical assistance.
Fisher points out that the pandemic amplified problems for everyone, especially those who had been struggling before the Spring of 2020 when Covid started to hit.
“The ARPA Fund Task Force is doing tremendous things to improve Chestertown… but it’s really my hope the (USCDP) objectives and goals will be revisited by the Council. Upper Shore is not just looking to find grant money to be given to them to spend willy-nilly.” he says, but rather with a scope of work, objectives, and specific goals and benchmarks.
The reference is to the ARPA legislative language: “Eligible uses include affordable housing, childcare, early learning services and making certain community development and neighborhood revitalization activities eligible for disproportionately impacted communities” to compliment private funding they have already received.”
USCDP consultant Rebecca Murphy, says, “USCDP fully supports the hard work of the ARPA Task Force, and applauds their focus on equity and their commitment to organizations in our community. However, we also believe that the Town would benefit by also having an organization who is focused on ensuring that equity is part of the community’s ongoing discussions in an intentional way, and who can provide the support that the Town says it needs to implement the recommendations of the Equity Advisory Committee, help nonprofit organizations, and provide other services.
So far, the Town appears reluctant. Fisher recently met with Councilman Tom Herz regarding USCDP’s request for $270,000- $90,000/year for 3 years – which represents approximately two (2) percent of the total allocation, a minimal amount.
It has always been USCDP’s goal to work with the Task Force to provide technical assistance to applicants, assist with community engagement, and provide staff support as needed. To that end, the founding consultants met with members of the Town Council and the Mayor prior to their presentation to help them understand the potential of the CDC, and specifically with Council Member Herz to explore how the ARPA Task Force and the CDC could work together.
That’s where a community development corporation like Upper Shore Community Development Partners could assist, providing organizational capacity and the services necessary to make access to services equitable for all.
This video is approximately ten minutes in length. For more about USCDP, please go here.