Kensington: Community Group Helps Local Residents

Christina Tovar, a Chick-Fil-A employee, worked behind the register.]

Christina Tovar, a Chick-Fil-A employee, worked behind the register.

Chick-Fil-A kitchen manager Christina Tovar takes great pride in her work.

A mother of three, she represents the many low-income families who are finding jobs in Kensington due to the many developments and businesses that Impact Services, Aramingo Business Association (ABA) and the Kensington and Allegheny Business Association (KABA) have helped bring into the neighborhood.

When Tovar heard the plans of a new restaurant opening at 2301 E. Butler Street in February 2008, she jumped at the opportunity to transfer because it was much closer to her home. Working at her current location for two years, she has proven how dedicated of a worker and parent she is by moving up in the ranks and becoming the restaurant’s kitchen manager. Her decision to transfer was one of her smartest decisions because she has been able to save more money while being able to support her family, which is no longer considered a low-income family.

“Many of my co-workers are from low-income families and it’s great to see these businesses provide job opportunities to them and help them move up in positions and get out of the low-income status to the point where they can provide for their families,” Tovar said.

John MacDonald, President and CEO of Impact Services, spoke at the monthly meeting held at Chick-Fil-A.

Since 1974, Impact Services Corp. has been planting its roots in Kensington by providing residents and businesses with its services that allows the two groups to take advantage of their full potential by growing and benefiting cohesively.

Based in and around the heart of Kensington, Impact has had its hand in the community’s development through several facets. It offers affordable housing, veteran services, community and economic development and employment training programs.

Through its employment and training programs, Impact has helped over 22,000 people with a chance to enter the workforce. Impact caters to specific groups of people who have a harder time at finding jobs and getting hired such as homeless veterans, recently returned ex-offenders and those who participate in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The only way Impact has been able to help both those who complete the program and the neighborhood’s major commercial corridors was by creating two business associations, the KABA and the ABA. Since the three services teamed up together in 2005, Kensington’s landscape has changed dramatically from vacant lots and abandoned buildings to paved lots with major retailers and smaller local businesses.

While both business associations work through Impact to get major and small retailers to move into the area, each association has a different focus from the other. The ABA’s work falls along Aramingo Avenue between Allegheny Ave., and Wheatsheaf Lane where the association works and deals with over 125 retailers and services such as Target, Applebee’s and Home Depot. The KABA works with over 75 smaller businesses and retailers that are centered around Kensington and Allegheny Ave. KABA works with retailers such as SneakerVilla, Cricket Cellular and Quick Stop Market as well as services such as the Esperanza Health Center and the Hispanic Community Services expansion.

Generating revenue and providing locals with major shopping areas that are within walking distance are just a couple of the association’s goals. But, the goal that is at the forefront is to provide the neighborhood’s residents with local job opportunities.

Representatives from companies attended the monthly meeting held at Chick-Fil-A and hosted by Impact Services.

“We (Impact) lent a little bit of money to the developers and developments and that gave us the opportunity to get to meet all of the businesses and then place low-income folks that we work with at Impact into some of those businesses,” Impact’s President and CEO John MacDonald said.

This six-year plan will total over $45 million upon completion has already seen many of Impact’s employment and training graduates find jobs within the businesses and retailers that have settled and opened up shop along the Aramingo shopping corridor. By the end of the six-year plan the new businesses and retailers will create an opening of over 600 new jobs.

“Last year we placed 1,100 to almost 1,200 people with businesses in the areas that we have been building and developing,” MacDonald said.

Representatives from companies attend the monthly meetings held at Chick-Fil-A, which are hosted by Impact Services. Also in attendance are the local law enforcement and representatives from Allied Barton the security company that provides its services to many of the businesses involved with Impact Services Community Development Corp. They gather to discuss the previous month’s progress, crime reports, future plans and any suggestions that anyone may have. Tovar has personally seen how Impact Services Community Development Corporation has impacted the avenue.

“I see the meetings that go on here and I see how our restaurant has benefited from being a part of Impact’s business associations,” Tovar said. “The businesses that are part of the program all help each other out, like if we run out of something we can run to Lowe’s or vice versa. All the businesses on the avenue have really great working relationships with one another.”



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