Generosity Stories – Volume II: Moving Into the Neighborhood
Near our prosperous downtown there are generations of families living in pockets of concentrated poverty. In 2012, Eddy Moratin joined other local business leaders who found this to be unjust and wanted to help. These individuals would help form LIFT Orlando that would use the momentum around a $210 million reconstruction project on Camping World Stadium to encourage investment in the surrounding neighborhoods. As Eddy stepped into the role of Executive Director, he knew that LIFT Orlando was the way God wanted him to put all that he’d been teaching others into practice. Eddy says, “For more than 20 years I’d talked to others about using their role in the marketplace as a way to serve the community. I’d encouraged it, but this was a way for some of us to actually do it.”
LIFT Orlando’s initiatives help address pressing needs for better housing, education, wellness, and economic opportunity, in order to see the area flourish after years of “discriminatory policies, unjust business practices, and absentee slumlords.”
As part of the plan to address housing needs, LIFT Orlando is facilitating the construction of new, mixed-income housing called West Lakes. When the first market-rate apartment homes became available, Eddy, his wife Gisele, and their two children moved into the neighborhood. He wasn’t going to just help build a solution from a distance – he wanted to personally invest his time and energy to grow the community as his own. “It was the next step in wanting to walk alongside others as they rebuild their community. We’re not going in to try and save a neighborhood, we just want to get to know those around us and be good neighbors.”
Residents named the apartments Pendana at West Lakes – Pendana being a Swahili word for “love one another.” Eddy’s hope is that those living in the apartments would experience it as a place that lives up to its name, as neighbors look out for and take care of each other. Eddy says, “In the days we live in, communities of all cultures have become more disconnected than ever before. So even the smallest neighborly gestures are precious. We want to recruit others to feel that sense of engagement and responsibility to be caring and connected neighbors.”
In hoping to revitalize the community, Eddy and the LIFT Orlando team realized early on that true partnership with residents of the surrounding community would be the key to sustainable change. “When we enter communities with the desire to serve, all too often we see ourselves as the hero and the answer to people’s prayers. That’s not the highest and best role; instead it’s much more valuable to help people rise up and serve their own neighbors. How do we create the pathways for them to be the heroes of their own communities?”
As leaders emerge from the community, the story of West Lakes’ future is changing. Eddy says, “I think that’s part of what Christ does for each of us. He gives us a new story to tell about ourselves and the communities we live in. Even though it includes the blemishes of our past, it offers a totally different lens by which to see the redemption of our future.”
Eddy’s long-term picture of success for LIFT Orlando is that they will be remembered as “supporting actors” when the community’s story is retold, rather than being in a leading role. He says, “Ideally 10 years from now people wont’ talk about how the neighborhood changed because this group called LIFT Orlando showed up. But they’ll say, “My mom, my aunt, my grandfather, they did these great things and there was this group that helped them do it. That’s the kind of narrative that builds dignity, social equity, and pride in the community.”
Eddy’s story illustrates generosity can take on multiple forms from giving wealth to giving time or talents to “moving into the neighborhood.” Lives are being changed because of this posture of a generous life. May you be inspired to seek such a transformative view of generosity and the ripple effects it can have on our community.
**This story has been repurposed from an article in Summit Church Magazine by Melissa Stillman. Contact Melissa here.
Generosity Stories is a series meant to inspire generosity in others by highlighting stories of individuals and families in Central Florida.
For more on NCF Stories Series, subscribe to our mailing list here.
If you have a story to share or are interested in learning more about the “why” and “how” of generosity, email NCF Orlando at firstname.lastname@example.org.