Selma native creates new nonprofit to benefit city

Published 11:45 pm Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Selma native’s dream to create a nonprofit organization to benefit the community that raised her has become a reality.

After years of seeing Selma labeled as one of the most undesirable places to live in various socioeconomic studies, Keeshee Smith decided about a year ago to do something to change it. On May 13, she established the Black Belt Community Development Coalition to create opportunities for all ages to eliminate the negative perception many have of Selma.

“It made it seem like Selma was one of the most horrible places to live or start a business or raise a family or even fight for as if it was at it’s wit’s end,” Smith said. “For me, that was kind of heartbreaking because I’m a product of that area.”

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With some help from her friend and organization co-founder Courtney Cunningham, Smith dedicated a year to building upon their nonprofit agency designed to provide learning management, career development, mentoring and volunteering programs for residents in the Black Belt communities.

One of the many Black Belt Community Development Coalition programs is a Dress for Success program geared toward career identification and mapping by providing participants with lessons on business etiquette, tips on the appropriate professional dress attire, conducting mock interviews and sharing mentoring opportunities.

The coalition also features a Love Your Block, Selma’s Got Talent, Life Class Series and Cooking with a Twist, Bodies in Motion, My Neighbor’s Keeper and Prison Entrepreneurship Mentoring programs.

The group has some events scheduled, such as a Zaxby’s Fundraiser Night in June, a Book Adventure at the Selma Library in July, a back to school drive at Hailey’s Palace in August and much more.

Selma resident Sheree Daffin said she plans to do all she can to support the Black Belt Community Development Coalition, because she is confident that it will change the community for the better.

“It’s a good idea,” Dafiin said. “It’s going to help educate not only the students, but also help educate the parents.”

While the process of creating the organization was long and far more strenuous than Smith expected, she’s proud to see that the hard work she and Cunningham have put into the project has worked out with plenty of support from the community.

“I’m happy. I’m overwhelmed. I’m excited,” Smith said.

For more information, contact Smith at 874-1680.