The group behind Utica’s annual Juneteenth celebration in Chancellor Park is preparing to expand its impact.  

The Mid-Utica Neighborhood Preservation Corporation has run programs in the city’s Cornhill neighborhood for 45 years, most recently the Bessie Hicks Senior Program in addition to the Juneteenth event.  

And, now it’s getting a boost. The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties has awarded the nonprofit a five-year, $300,000 grant to build capacity and to hire its first executive director in two decades.  

The Mid-Town Utica Neighborhood Preservation Corporation will hold its Juneteenth Celebration, seen here in a file photo from 2022 when the celebration was held in Chancellor Park, on Saturday, June 22 in Proctor Park. Representatives of the nonprofit will officially announce their search for an executive director and talk about its 45th anniversary at this year's celebration.

“Our mission is to serve Utica’s community needs and it is clear that we must evolve as an organization to provide the space and services our community needs,” said MUNPC Board Chair Hilda M. Jordan in a statement. “We feel blessed and empowered that the Community Foundation has invested into our community and the structural evolution of our organization to reach our full potential and sustainably thrive.” 

Juneteenth event

The search for an executive director, to be led by MUNPC and The Community Foundation, will officially kick off Saturday at this year’s Juneteenth Celebration from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 22 in Proctor Park at 1254-1260 Culver Ave. this year.  

The celebration, which marks the day in 1865 when news arrived in Texas that slavery had been abolished, will include Gospel performances, local rap, spoken word performances, health screenings, African American history presentations, culturally appropriate foods and games.

Representatives from the Community Foundation will be present to conduct interviews for its Community Voices (Letting your voice be heard) project.  

The executive director will take on a variety of responsibilities, including strategic planning and governance, refining the organization’s mission, priority programming, fundraising and development. 

More growth

And the new executive director will help MUNPC meet other challenges it’s taking on. Its building on West Street, best known as the Leisure Time Activity Center, was demolished this spring to make way for the West Street Impact Center, part of the $77 million pledged over 30 years for the Cornhill Revitalization Initiative being undertaken by MUNPC, The Community Foundation, People First (the city’s housing authority), The Collective Impact Network and the city of Utica.  

The activity center was used by the Bessie Hicks Senior Program to provide activities for seniors, such as crafts, fitness classes, Bible study and opportunities to socialize. 

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The new impact center will include 78 mixed-income apartments, a multipurpose gym and co-working space that can be used for senior activities, workforce training, community nonprofit events, etc., according to the Community Foundation.  

Cornhill Revitalization 

The Cornhill Revitalization Initiative also includes another impact center to be built on vacant lots on James Street. This center will include 24 units of mixed-income housing and other areas to meet needs in the community. The revitalization project will also include park improvements, lighting and pedestrian safety improvements, and an urban fitness trail.  

“The Cornhill Revitalization Initiative requires our community partners to be true champions of change, and we know we have that in MUNPC,” Community Foundation President/CEO Alicia Fernandez Dicks said in a statement.  “MUNPC has been an important part of this community’s past, and we’re excited to support the role they will play in its future.”  

An application for the executive director position is available on the foundation’s website.