On August 31, 1972, a group of concerned residents of the Forest Manor area held their first of many meetings to establish an organized system focused on addressing the human and social needs of the Forest Manor community. The outcome of those meetings resulted in the birth of Forest Manor Multi-Service Center, Inc. (FMMSC) in March 1973.
Our Center, originally sponsored and operated by the City of Indianapolis and funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was established as part of a service network designed to assist areas within the Community Development Block Grant boundaries designated by HUD.
Forest Manor’s first home was the Forest Manor United Methodist Church, located at 34th and Forest Manor Avenue. Later, the Center moved to 3716 Sherman Drive and then to 2951 East 38th Street. Our organization is now located in the heart of our catchment area at 5603 E. 38th Street.
During our formative years, FMMSC operated as an area Community Action Against Poverty Agency (CAAP). In August 1977, the Center gained its status as a not-for-profit organization, but it was in 1978 that the core services of the agency took on a new dimension. The City of Indianapolis’ Division of Community Services and Division of Employment and Training designed and entered into a unified contract, which allowed the social service staff to expand counseling to include employment and training assessment and referral services. Later, contractual arrangements were made with the Division of Community Services and the State of Indiana’s Department of Public Welfare for the reimbursement of Title XX funds based on the units of service.
With service boundaries consisting of 56th Street – North, 30th Street – South, Fall Creek Parkway – West, and I-465 – East, the Center began providing outreach programs for youth and adults in area churches in June of 1982. This was done primarily due to the expressed need by the community to get back to holistic programming for the entire family. Programming included tutorial programs for youth, GED classes, 4-H programs, drama workshops and exercise/fitness classes. A core of dedicated volunteers staffed many of these programs, further demonstrating the strong commitment within the community.
In order to establish and provide a more comprehensive system of human services, Forest Manor Multi-Service Center joined Community Centers of Indianapolis (CCI) in April of 1983, and in 1987, the Board of Directors and Executive Director began the challenge of searching for a new location. The office building at 2951 East 38th Street, which housed the organization on the second floor, consisted of approximately 1,780 sq. ft. The location had several constraints which adversely impacted the organization’s ability to effectively and efficiently administer current programs and to enhance or expand services.
The Facility Search Committee located a building further east of its location, which would allow for the expansion of services and programs and eliminate numerous disagreeable constraints. Renovations to the over 7,500 sq. ft. building involved improvements needed to improve accessibility for disabled persons and senior citizens and also included the creation of several individual offices, classrooms and a multi-purpose room. Endorsement of the project by the Lilly Endowment afforded the funds to purchase, renovate, remodel, equip, and furnish the facility. The United Way of Greater Indianapolis and The Indianapolis Foundation also provided financial support. In July 1989, the newly renovated and remodeled facility, located 5603 East 38th Street, opened for business.
In 2004, the Community Centers of Indianapolis dissolved and Forest Manor Multi-Service Center became its own non-profit organization. We are currently a member agency of the United Way of Central Indiana.
FOREST MANOR COMMUNITY
According to the 2010 Census Data, service area has a population of approximately 95,443 citizens. Of those that we serve, 75% are African American. The average Adjusted Gross Income is $28,390.50, with 31.5% of families living below the poverty line and with 16% of residents falling 50% below the poverty line. Additionally, the area unemployment rate is approximately 12.45%, and an astounding 25% of the population has not earned a high school diploma while less than 10% of the area population holds a bachelor’s level degree.
Throughout our existence, our agency has helped tens of thousands of individuals and families. According to a client demographics report for July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012, of those that we serve,
– 3,980 are unduplicated clients
– 3,699 are considered low income clients
– 2,887 are female (percentage of female clients = 74.2%)
– 1,003 are male (percentage of male clients = 25.8%)
It is also important to note that according to SAVI data, approximately 90% of the females residing in the FMMSC catchment area are single with at least two children. We certainly find this reality to be true and fairly represented through the female clientele that we serve.
The Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) consistently reports crime rates that exceed those of neighborhoods elsewhere in the city. Youth offenses and youth gangs have contributed to the increase in east district crime statistics as the high school drop-out level continues to rise and other economic stresses impact this population. The Social Assests and Vulnerability Indicators (SAVI) show youth criminal offenses counted for 32% (2,487) of the total adult and juvenile criminal offenses in our area.
Recidivism rates remain high, and re-entry issues are a common problem as persons released from the criminal justice system are continually returning to their homes within our boundaries, adding further complications and challenges. Our center is a staple in the community and is an automatic first point of contact for many residents who need assistance, particularly job training and workforce development assistance. In fact, within our Workforce Development Program, approximately 85% of the program participants are ex-offenders and thus face additional barriers to finding gainful employment, such as lack of education, poor work history and the inability to find employers willing to place them in open positions due to their questionable past. Each day and without recruiting efforts, our office receives inquiries or referrals regarding job placement assistance for residents, typically for African-American males with criminal histories.
It is important to note that persons with disabilities or other special needs are also assisted. In fact, FMMSC is handicap accessible and has both staff and community support mechanisms, such as specialized transportation, medical support, mental health services and translation assistance, which ensure a positive experience for clients with physical or mental challenges.
Throughout our 45+ year history, Forest Manor has a rich history of providing care, support and encouragement, as well as programs, services and assistance, to everyone who enters our center. However, the need is growing in our community. Poverty, unemployment, childhood obesity and homelessness continue to surge. Yet the people of Forest Manor are strong, and we strive to meet their needs with warmth, compassion and concern, knowing each one of us deserves the opportunity to thrive. Because of our geographical location, our excellent reputation and the quality of our training programs and the services we are able to provide, we expect the need for our center to continue to grow.
Several of examples of our programs demonstrate how strategic relationships with other organizations have resulted in excellent combined programming, especially the following examples:
– Research clearly shows that the African American male child living in poverty, especially in a single parent home, is in the most danger of being at risk for gang activity, delinquency and youth violence. In order to proactively address this devastating reality, Forest Manor Multi-Service Center, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Marion County Juvenile Court System and the Arlington Community High School network has collaboratively developed the Respect is Mutual (RIM) Mentoring Program, an initiative designed to effectively decrease youth gang involvement and delinquent behavior by providing meaningful alternatives to draw high risk youth away from the gang lifestyle. Our RIM Mentoring Program seeks to address the needs of these individuals by providing mentorship, educational support and enrichment activities by using local strategies that yield measurable results.
– Our organization is currently committed to finding a permanent solution to the devastating problem of the severe lack of healthy and fresh foods within our community. We have taken active steps by forming the Indy East Food Desert Coalition with the Community Alliance of the Far Eastside (CAFE) and the United North East Community Development Center (UNECDC), a joint effort to bring food and wellness to the Eastside of Indianapolis. Our partnerships mission it to provide access to fresh food and reasonably priced healthy and nutritious food options in under-resourced, high-need communities located in food deserts on the eastside of Indianapolis and to provide nutrition initiatives and health-focused educational opportunities to residents in the targeted service areas using innovative tools, techniques and procedures.
In addition to relationships with other local non-profits, area businesses and government entities, we also strive to form collaborative partnerships with area churches. The Forest Manor community has approximately 180 churches and/or religious institutions within its boundaries, consisting of various culturally diverse denominations and beliefs. FMMSC has established a collaborative relationship with over 10% of the churches and is constantly initiating and creating new relationships with area churches. Religious organizations, as well as other community organizations, understand that our agency is uniquely positioned to screen for need and to administer support wisely and efficiently. In fact, churches such as St. Alban Episcopal, Immanuel Presbyterian and Shalom Mennonite regularly support our food pantry, while St. Andrew Catholic and Calvary Temple provide annual holiday support. Many others serve as regular referral sources for food, household goods and clothing.
Collaborative partnerships have proven to be a “win-win” situation for all entities, and FMMSC is confident that services provided will continue to grow and flourish based in part on the strength of these partnerships. Without the significant collaborations and partnerships with neighborhood businesses, churches, government agencies and other service providers developed and maintained by staff, Forest Manor Multi Service Center would not be able to offer the quality programming that area residents have come to expect.