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  • Joan Nelson
  • Executive Director, Allen Neighborhood Center, Lansing, MI

Allen Neighborhood Center (ANC) is a 14-year-old hub for comprehensive and integrative community development on Lansing's Eastside. As Executive Director, Ms. Nelson oversees programs focused on health, food security/access, housing restoration, youth development, strengthening families, commercial corridor revitalization, and neighborhood capacity-building.

In 2004 Ms. Nelson pioneered the development of the weekly Allen Street Farmers Market, which brings fresh, locally grown produce into the neighborhood. Today the Market draws 550-1,100 people every Wednesday, May through October, to the sprawling outdoor market, which features regionally grown produce, music, Food Chatter Table, kids' programming, and more.

In 2004 Ms. Nelson and Murdock Jemerson, of the City of Lansing Parks and Recreation Department, co-hosted a several-months-long planning process resulting in the Hunter Park Master Plan—a blueprint for developing a safer, more inviting and neighbor-friendly park. The partnership continued with a successful grant application to the State of Michigan "Cool Cities" Initiative, resulting in funds for installation of a half-mile long walking path (2005) and construction of a year-round greenhouse (2008). This dynamic partnership propelled implementation of the entire 11-point Park Improvement Plan by 2010, and continues today to generate ideas and programs that have resulted in Hunter Park becoming the second most heavily utilized park in the City's 104 park system.

ANC also maintains a health team that engages in vigorous outreach focused on coverage, access to healthcare, exercise, breast health promotion, healthy parenting, and strengthening community connections.

The ANC housing partnership with LCC's Construction and Design Technologies Department and the Ingham County Land Bank involves the renovation of two tax foreclosed abandoned homes which, when completely restored, will be sold to owner occupants. A second partnership with Habitat for Humanity will result in façade improvements done by Habitat volunteers for low- to moderate-income Eastside homeowners over the coming year.

Finally, construction is nearly complete on the Allen Market Place, planned and built over the past year in an abandoned 5,000 square foot warehouse adjacent to the center. In the Market Place, ANC will carry out a comprehensive set of initiatives to address local food needs, connect to the regional agricultural community, and create economic opportunities within the Eastside neighborhood and beyond.

Ms. Nelson attended Michigan State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in social science (1971) and a master’s degree in health education/exercise physiology (1983).