We had the good fortune of connecting with Deirdra Cox and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Deirdra, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
The most impactful book I read in the past 45 days is by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, titled, “Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community”.  This book is of great interest to me as a female community and economic development leader of color, whose focus is upward economic mobility in the African American family and community.  I strongly believe that the prescriptive text required to bridge the socioeconomic divide among people of color and the white community is going to require a keen focus on policy in the areas of education, workforce development, the legal system, health care and economic and community development.  I also firmly believe the approach will require practitioners teaching low income/high potential people of color how to fish, and the opportunity to fish so that they can produce a quality of life for themselves and their families for generations.  I do believe there are injustices and barriers in our current systems that enable poverty and silent discourage individual and family self-efficacy, simply by not encouraging and making it a requirement of progression on any level.  Dr. Kings book not only addresses the issues that are still being faced today, but provides prescriptive text for all stakeholders to consider as we move forward.  This book made it abundantly clear to me that the work CSE does in the socioeconomic landscape of low income communities of color is needed now more than ever.  Everyone must embrace the need to move forward in a different way that produces upward economic mobility and quality of life for those who desire to pursue it with every fiber in their being.  I vote we move towards building thriving, sustainable people and inclusive communities, through policy and best practices in every aspect of our society.

What should our readers know about your business?
Community Sustainability Enterprise (CSE) is a Georgia based 501c3, whose vision is, building thriving, sustainable, low income/high potential people and inclusive communities. We accomplish our vision through our 4 pillar cross-collaborative program approach: – Mental & Physical Wellness – Educational Attainment – Career & Workforce Development – Financial Literacy & Capability CSE is committed to addressing the generational and systemic health, education, and income disparities in low income/high potential communities of color, so we take a family approach to building self-efficacy in each of these areas. We believe self-efficacy in the above 4 pillar areas will create long term sustainability and a change in the socioeconomic trajectory of families and communities. Our programming is designed to combine education and 1 on 1 coaching. The process of transforming a trauma stricken mindset and introducing new concepts, while building self-efficacy in these areas is a hands-on, long term process. With this in mind, CSE’s program model is designed to support a family or individual until they accomplish at least one of their stated financial goals. CSE’s approach to the total person, is unique, in that most community development programs, don’t address the mental, physical, educational attainment, workforce/career development, and financial capability of growth of a family or person in tandem. Typically each is addressed separately and there is no collaborative support provided to the family or individual, to ensure that all barriers to upward mobility are addressed. My creative genius, spirituality, love for people, and public speaking ability have been my greatest strengths in growing in business. My creativity allows me to see angles and avenues for growth that others may not see while creating an inclusive environment for all to thrive. My love for people draws people to me and me to them. It is typically like-minded energy that is created between my best clients and me, and we begin building on that energy to create a program or platform that impacts many in the community & economic development space. I have always been a talker. My father was a successful journalist, so I learned a great deal from watching him in the newsroom. He also made me read the New York Times daily, and write a paper about my favorite article, to include how what I read was going to impact the world. I also had to provide a verbal report at dinner. Toastmasters was another valuable tool that helped me articulate my vision. Lastly, growing up in the theater in New York City never hurt. Theater saved my life! I want people to know that it is imperative that they get to know who they are, what they love, how they can use their gifts to contribute to making the world a better place. Any gift can be monetized, so identify a mentor who is doing what you want to do in an extraordinary way, and learn best business practices from the. When you love what you do, and do what you love, you will never be bitter a day in your life. Every day will present an opportunity to get better. CSE is here to support mankind and communities to be the very best version of themselves that they can be, through our 4 pillars.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Welcome to Atlanta BFF, I have planned a week-long experience for us, that is sure to tantalize every one of our senses, from visual, taste, texture and smells. Since you are flying in on an afternoon, we’ll make a stop at METATL to pick up a salmon club sandwich and some shrimp fries from Che Butter Jonez food truck. Now we start day 2 with a trip to the North Georgia mountains and Brasstown Bald. We have to walk off that Che Butter Jonez salmon club sandwich and those doggone shrimp fries. This is my KETO cheat meal. Day 1 is all about exploring the beauty of the mountains and the walking trails…GROUNDING Day 2, we travel to Gwinnett County, where CSE is headquartered, to visit my favorite herbal shop, for some sea moss and detox teas, WANDAFUL HERBS. I’ve got to show my BFF the schools, communities, and community partners CSE serves in Gwinnett County, so we visit, Meadowcreek High School, Central Gwinnett High School, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, Peach State FCU, Capital City Home Loans, and Habitat for Humanity. On the way home, we have dinner at Papadeaux’s in Duluth, GA. Day 3, we go to a show at the Aurora, Theater in Lawrenceville, GA. We enjoyed a FABULOUS meal prior to the theater at Frankies Steakhouse in the Gwinnett Chamber building. Day 3 & 4 we head back to the North Georgia Mountains to Tallulah Gorge, and spend 1 night and 2 days walking trails, eating green, walking and tasting at the wineries, and immersing ourselves at the SPA. Day 5 – It’s time to go home. 5 days is a week for me:)

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
CSE would like to shoutout Greg & Tammy Shumate of Capital City Home Loans (formerly BrandMortgage) for believing in CSE’s vision and for their commitment to supporting our program deployment efforts. I came to Georgia over a decade ago, with my middle school age daughter in tow, a widow and no real professional network to speak of. I met Greg Shumate, and he offered me an opportunity to come work for him. I had been in banking and mortgage finance for over 30 years when we met, and I had made community & economic development my passion, but I had to pay the bills, so affordable mortgage financing is what got me started in the Atlanta mortgage market. I went to Greg after a few years of affordable housing origination and told him I wanted to move the socioeconomic needle through community & economic development. He told me to write my job description. He introduced me to the President of the bank he was partnered with, and I assumed my role as VP, Community Development Officer. I have done some of the most impactful work of my community & economic development career in partnership with Greg and Tammy Shumate. Fast forward, I retired from banking 5 years ago and launched CSE. My goal was to do exactly what our vision statement says, build thriving, sustainable people and communities, through a comprehensive community & economic development platform. Greg & Tammy have been instrumental in providing donations and sponsorship dollars for many of CSE’s community programs. Greg Shumate and I worked tirelessly with Dr. Tommy Welch, former Principal of Meadowcreek High School, and Jody Reeves, former Director of GCPS CTAE department, to put a full-service bank branch along with youth development programs inside of Meadowcreek High School. Business partners like Greg and Tammy Shumate make community transformation and upward economic mobility in low income/high potential communities possible, because it takes funding to execute programs like ours successfully, and to produce quantifiable outcomes…thriving, sustainable people and inclusive communities. CSE extends our heartfelt thanks to Greg & Tammy Shumate for their commitment to being the change they want to see.

Website: www.communityse.org
Instagram: communityse
Linkedin: Deirdra Cox
Twitter: @CSEATL
Facebook: @CSEDevelops
Youtube: CSEDevelops

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