JPC offers Community Development, Special Needs Housing, Nutrition, Recreation, Mentoring and Advocacy

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How You Can Become an "Agent of Positive Change"

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Johnson Park Center
Strategic Plan for Positive Change
How You Can Become an "Agent of Positive Change"

5 Cities. One Mission. A Summit on Housing & Community Development
Strengthening Cities, Communities & Homes
Community Based Organizations Make a Difference
In Utica NY on
Wednesday May 20, 2015
Presented by Rev. Dr. Maria A. Scates, D.D., JPC CE0/Founder

For you to be the agent of positive change that will transform not only your life but others' includes the people, places -- our communities and the neighborhood where we/you live -- and things that are a part of your/our life experience.

The Free Dictionary defines the following words:


  1. Important or essential in relation to a plan of action;
  2. Highly important to an intended objective.


  1. A program or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective;
  2. A proposed or tentative project or course of action:
    a.) A plan to build self-esteem, confidence and hope to be successful spiritually, physically, and mentally, to thrive and to flourish in one individual's life

    b.) A plan of peace, accord, agreement, unity, and understanding that is concerned and cares for well being and health of in all individuals-children, adults & families lives & in the communities and neighborhoods (people, places & things) where they reside.


  1. Characterized by or displaying certainty, acceptance, or affirmation;
  2. Unity, being in agreement, being one accord.
  3. Hope, desire, expectation, trust, confidence, reliance, reassurance.
  4. Measured or moving forward or in a direction of increase, promise & progress for a better future.


  1. To cause to be different,
  2. To give a completely different form or appearance to, transformative, revitalization.

Therefore a Strategic Plan for Positive Change is defined as: Strategic-Highly important, essential, intended objective Plan- A program or method worked out beforehand with a course of action to build self-esteem, confidence and hope to be successful. At peace, in one accord and unity measured and/or moving forward in a direction of increase, promise and progress for better a future which will cause individuals-children, adults & families lives to be different; and the community be completely different in form and appearance, transformative & revitalization.

Now, let us take a closer look at the four main points which are the key elements of the JPC Strategic Plan for Positive Change along with you can become an agent of positive change.

For Positive Change to be real in your life you must have vision, dedication, commitment, and hard work. Today I am here to encourage you to write down the vision and the instructions that you receive.

The Free Dictionary defines "vision" as/p>

  1. The act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be often under the influence of the Divine.
  2. The act or power of sensing with the eyes and with sight.

And how does this happen?

For positive change to work in your life, you must: be (A) Accountable for your actions, (B) set clear Boundaries, (C) be Committed and available, and -- recently we added -- (D) stand firm in the Decision to be a person who brings positive change. And then Do it.

To further explain I'll give an example from my own life as how to become an agent of Strategic Plan for Positive Change.

I am the daughter of a Baptist preacher/pastor, had employment that paid for me to travel throughout the United States; I served in the military as an Army recruiter, and I worked for the federal government. My goal was to work hard, to make a lot of money, to buy a home on the waterfront in Virginia Beach, and go to church with my good government job for the rest of my life.

When a government promotion/transfer became available, my father tried to convince me not to take the promotion, because the transfer was to New York City where the cost of living is so much higher than in Virginia. The pay increase would amount to less than what I was making because of the increased cost-of-living expenses. My father was also concerned about the dangers of living in New York City (especially in Harlem) and he did not want anything to happen to me.

Yes, what my father said to me was right. But it was revealed through series of circumstances -- to include leaving the good government job, being homeless and sleeping some nights in my car until I lost it; running out drug dealers and drug users an abandoned building and living as a squatter; but while homeless I had a goal. It was to work hard, to make a lot of money, and to buy a home on the waterfront in Virginia Beach, and go to church through now being a real-estate agent for the rest of my life. Therefore, I was strengthened and encouraged that this was my purpose and a plan to succeed. By this time I was a licensed real estate agent and was looking for my first big sale with a big commission would put me on the road to recovery to reach my goal. It happened when I went to a 1985 Thanksgiving Dinner & Program, thinking that I was going to meet the pastor to have my first exclusive listing to sell her buildings.

Instead my eyes were opened to see. I went into the church that was full of street people, the homeless, the poor and needy, and my heart was moved with compassion. I began to cry, and then I realized that I was there for a purpose greater than selling and buying buildings and land, or even finding a place for me to stay and live. It was about making a commitment to help others to find a home, to change their attitudes and to change their lives. That day I realized that there was something much more important to me than anything I had ever thought -- and that was helping people to better their lives.

From that day on, through vision, dedication, commitment and an incredible amount of hard work -- and being a part of the Divine- God's JPC Strategic Plan -- positive change has taken place through changing properties, changing neighborhoods, changing attitudes, and most importantly changing lives.

Since 1985, yours truly has served as a full-time volunteer, not receiving any salary, to help the poor and needy, the less, the last, and the lost. I was given privilege to help start and operate a shelter in Harlem, New York, for homeless men in a church basement, and we served as well at-risk women and children living in substandard housing. Homeless women with children asked if we could create a shelter and affordable, safe, and supportive housing programs for them.

On May 3, 1987, the vision was put in writing-the concept, the plans for the non-profit organization named the Holistic Outreach, to address the needs of homeless women and children. After that, I attended Biblical studies for three years, was ordained, went to Jamaica (the Island) for two years, and for one year to Russia (the country) to establish mission schools. In both places, we witnessed transformation and revitalization in communities, improvements in people's homes and living conditions, and changed lives.

In September 1995, upon returning to New York from Russia, I asked people what was the worst area in the city of Utica. Everyone said Cornhill. It was known for drugs, crime and violence, murder; it was full of trash, garbage and racial strife. So that's where we decided to go. On November 14, 1995, Rev. Dr. Scates moved into 26 Johnson Park, with the Holistic Outreach Inc. and it's name change to JCTOD Outreach, Inc., where the nonprofit organization and its mission became a reality in Utica. In 2008, the incorporation added doing business as (d/b/a) called the Johnson Park Center (JPC)-- which means- Join Positive Change.

I still remember the first time being in Johnson Park. I saw the neighborhood as being beautiful. I had a vision of positive change for this community -- that it would be beautiful, clean and safe. I went right to work with the cleanup of 26 Johnson Park, which is now our headquarters building, and by picking up the trash in the whole neighborhood.

People would ask, especially the children, why are you doing this, when it is the city's responsibility? I would share with them that this is the area where we live, this is our community and we have a responsibility to clean it up and take care of it.

Take a walk around Johnson Park today, and you will be able to see the positive change. From our humble beginnings, JPC developed a comprehensive strategic plan to serve the inner-city Cornhill Johnson Park community anchored in safe & supportive special needs housing along with 4 focus areas- (1) Nutrition, (2) Recreation, (3) Mentoring & Advocacy and (4) Community Development:

  1. JPC currently owns 43 properties in Johnson Park with a total of 31 apartments in the Johnson Park Apartments Low-Income Safe and Supportive Housing Program called JPA. The program is for homeless mothers and their children and for chronically homeless single women without children who have special needs. Eight apartments are Green-Platinum LEED Certified. JPC is a City of Utica Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO).
  2. JPC started Oneida County's first family shelter with 18 beds where traditional and non- traditional low-income, homeless families can stay together during a crisis, regardless of their composition.
  3. The JPC Youth Program - Drop-In Enrichment Center, with a playground and basketball court that offers wholesome recreational and educational activities for neighborhood youth that provide the necessary discipline to enable youth to strive and achieve positive life goals.
  4. JPC has the Head, Hand & Heart Family Enrichment Program as a method to prepare children ages 3-5 years for entry into kindergarten through the use of technology and hands-on learning.
  5. The Youth Center offers leadership development training for youths age 9 to 14. The Youth Voice Initiative encourages and trains young people to speak up and be leaders and positive role models. The Youth Voice Initiative encourages other youth not to use tobacco, illegal drugs, or alcohol and to resist crime and youth violence.
  6. Food/nutrition programs for youth, families and seniors are helping stop hunger and food insecurity in the inner city and provide the next step to self-sufficiency. The youth center serves over 10,000 nutritious meals to children and adults each year.
  7. At the JPC Food Pantry we average 300 families per month, many who are the "working poor", handing out staple food for three days. Yearly, we sponsor a large free food give-a-way event in July with approximately 400 households, many present to receive additional food to ease the pain of poverty.
  8. The JPC children and adults learn how to grow fruits and vegetables at the JPC Let's Grow Community Garden, which has its annual garden wake up and harvest festival. All participants can take home fresh vegetables and various teaching components are integrated to coach healthy eating habits.
  9. JPC provides transportation services for youth, adults and families.
  10. JPC provides ongoing advocacy, mentoring/life coaching, focus and support groups, Pre- Career/Employment Empowerment Life Skills Training for JPC/JPA program participants & Cornhill community residents.
  11. JPC provides an on-site operations development specialist program that reaches out to strengthen families & single women individual lives, build personal/Life & Home-Management Living Skills, and to prevent Individuals & Family Violence Abuse and Neglect.
  12. JPC played a key role in the revitalization of Johnson Park itself, and is an anchor for the Cornhill neighborhood. JPC has secured millions of dollars in grants from public and private sources, as well as in-kind support for its various projects. The agency has created strong partnerships with a wide range of government agencies, banks, foundations, and non-profit agencies to implement its community-based services and community development programs.
  13. Parallel to the not-for-profit work, JCTOD Church was incorporated as the Lord Jesus Christ Tabernacle of David, Inc. with the Seed of Hope Ministry as an Outreach Program.

All of the programs of JPC are long-term and will run continually on an annual basis.

Rev. Dr. Scates, Chief Executive Officer Biography
History & Accomplishments

The Rev. Dr. Maria A. Scates, D.D., is the Chief Executive Officer of Johnson Park Center, (JPC) which means Join Positive Change! She is formerly homeless and a veteran that is an advocate for the homeless, women, children and families. Rev. Dr. Scates is a visionary; she pioneered and led the way for positive change and revitalization in the Johnson Park community, which she loves and resides in. She co-founded HARK-HOMES, a shelter for the homeless in Harlem, New York and is the Founder of the Johnson Park Center; Cornhill-Utica an inner city community based organization. Through vision, dedication, commitment and hard work, Rev. Dr. Scates possesses considerable experience in working with minority women and children from dysfunctional families and operating various service programs for the poor and needy, including organization, leadership & management, supervision of staff, counseling, fundraising and development and property management.

Some of the Awards & Accomplishments that JPC & Rev. Dr. Scates have received:

  • In year 2007: The Bobby Page III Community Service Award through the "Robert Esche Save of the Day Foundation".
  • In year 2008: "Upstate Supportive Housing Residence of the Year" by the Supportive Housing Network of New York.
  • In year 2009 –the "Community Impact Award" from the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties.
  • In year 2011- Rev. Dr. Scates received an "Honorary Doctorate of Divinity" from Colgate University.
  • In year 2011- Rev. Dr. Scates received the Genesis Group "Joseph R. Carucci Community Appreciation Award.
  • In year 2012 JPC and Resource Living of Independent Living (RCiL) received the American with Disabilities (ADA) 22nd Anniversary Proclamation Award.
  • In year 2013 Rev. Dr. Scates received the Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency "Treva Wood Community Activist Award."
  • On July 15, 2013, JPC received the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Chemical Dependence Operating Certificate to become an OASAS provider of the JPA Supportive Housing Living Services Program & Facility located at 19 Johnson Park Utica, NY.
  • On March 25, 2014, Rev. Dr. Scates received the M&T Bank, the CNY Business Journal News Network and BizEventz Nonprofit Career Achievement Award.
  • On February 15, 2015 was honored as a Community Advocate by the Oneida County, the City of Utica and the Watson Williams Elementary School Program Committee.
  • On March 20, 2015 SUNY Polytechnic Institute's Psychology and Sociology Club in conjunction with the West Indian and African Club and the Veteran Club hosted its 12th Annual Benefit Dinner Friday at Daniele's Banquet in New Hartford in honor of JPC's constant commitment to positive change for the past 20 years! The total amount raised was $14,000.
  • On May 1, 2015 JPC received Food Bank of CNY's Community Impact Award.
  • On May 18, 2015 - May JPC's Food Pantry reached 1,000,000 meals served! A special giveaway and event celebrated the milestone.