Empowering a Neighborhood
There are a lot of wonderful, amazing nonprofits in Amarillo,” says Brady Clark, executive director of Square Mile Community Development. “But their focus oftentimes is needs-based. These organizations are valid and necessary because you’ve got to stop the bleeding. But what we weren’t seeing was a focus on long-term transformation.”
In other words, as the proverb goes, many of Amarillo’s charity organizations may be giving away fish, but very few are actively “teaching a man to fish”—or giving him quality fishing equipment or access to a productive pond.
That’s the purpose of Square Mile, which is dedicated to improving the overall health of Amarillo’s historic San Jacinto neighborhood, which just happens to be around a square mile in size. “We’ve identified five things that make up a healthy neighborhood,” says Clark, who launched the organization in 2015 after several years as a local pastor, which itself followed a decade working with underserved communities in Dallas.
Those five things are economic development, housing access, education, health care and spiritual care. “Our board is driven based on our faith, but we are not technically a faith-based organization. Our purpose isn’t to see souls saved but to build into people’s lives to help them be what they were created to be,” Clark says. “We’re trying to do good in this world based on our faith, but we work to help people whether they have any belief system or not.”
The scope of that work is broad. One of the organization’s flagship projects is its PATH program, which facilitates the development of small businesses in neighborhoods like San Jacinto. Most locals know the shops lining historic Sixth Street, but don’t know the diverse, low- to moderate-income community living nearby. Among other things, PATH provides coaching and access to capital that help small businesses—from food trucks to photographers—not only get off the ground, but continue to operate and grow.
Another program is Square Mile’s unique urban farm partnership with Nuke City Veg. Together, the two entities manage a small plot of land at the intersection of Belleview and Sixth. Fronted by shipping containers painted by Blank Spaces Murals, the farm includes three 100-foot caterpillar tunnels that produce thousands of pounds of vegetables all year long, including mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and other healthy foods. This collaboration helps address food insecurity in the neighborhood.