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SWIFT Blog

Swift is surrounded by wonderful, hard-working residents and stakeholders whose efforts create a rich environment for the work we are committed to here!

Darlene Robertson-Childs, Chair of the Northeast Revitalization Association (NERA)

Welcome all! Here we will begin to highlight the stories of one of the most important resources benefitting the Swift Campus—our community resident partners.


One of the Swift Redevelopment Project’s staunchest supporters has always been the neighborhood revitalization zone (NRZ). As a matter of fact, it was these residents who recognized the then abandoned Swift Factory Brownsfield site should be redeveloped into a community asset--an economic asset. It was slated for the wrecking ball, probably to make room for more housing. Enter NRZ Chair, Darlene Robertson-Childs who partnered with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission to put a stop to demolition. “We knew what the city wanted to do, because there wasn’t much political will or money to get a project like this done for economic development. We’ve been neglected for over 40 years. We knew we had to get someone other than government to get this done and we knew developers have not come here to do anything but housing. We need resources to improve existing housing in this neighborhood, not opportunities for developers to make more money,” Robertson-Childs said.

Community Solutions has maintained a standing spot on the NRZ agenda, reporting our pre development work, construction updates, as well as our tenant onboarding progress. And, the relationship has never been one-sided.

From the beginning, Robertson-Childs and her mother, long-time Community Leader and Activist Helen Nixon, have assisted Community Solutions’ efforts. Whether it was our health systems work, community organizing, placemaking projects, landlord and tenant engagement or youth engagement; the dynamic duo of Robertson-Childs and Nixon were on the scene to inform, be informed and assist.

On this day, Robertson-Childs walked into Swift’s finished co-working office space, sat down in one of its multiple lounge areas and was impressed by the space. “Wow, it’s beautiful! People know how many years this took. They are constantly pointing that out. But, they don’t know how many roadblocks you all had to overcome to get this done,” she said. “This is unique. We are not seeing this all over the city. I am so proud that we have this.”

Robertson-Childs said she is excited to see investment in the community coming back. “This was a hub for economic resources in the beginning. It was wasted space because it sat empty, blighting the community and no one saw value in this neighborhood. The community itself couldn’t find the kind of resources to get it done alone,” she said, pointing to the lack of capital in the North End. “We’ve endured Redlining on loans and mortgages, as well as 40 plus years of no investment. But, now we’re here. I hope this is but the first step in turning this community around. We need more projects like this,” Robertson-Childs said.



Updated: Dec 12, 2020

We thought it would be great to share the stories of the awesome entrepreneurs who have made the Swift Campus their new home!


Right to Left: Terraine Jamison, Dr. S.J. Ghazi, Douglas Francis.

Hey everyone! Welcome to the first installation in our series highlighting our Swift Campus tenants. We’ll begin here with the first tenant to move on-site. They are “Build a Better You, LLC”.

When Grandmaster Shihan J. Ghazi started his Ghazi Do Karate Academy in 1989 at St. Joseph’s Cathederal with 30 students from the community, his goal was simple. He would use martial arts to teach discipline and integrity to neighborhood youth in making their lives and community better. It was natural to include his daughter Terraine Jamison as one of them. He expected she would excel and she did, becoming one of his principle students, and eventually an instructor.

He could not have known then, that 31 years later, he and his daughter would become principle partners of an agency combining martial arts, and arts production with therapeutic services provided in the form of individual, family and group counseling. That is what “Build A Better You, LLC” is!

Mental health, family dynamics and addiction is central to many of negative outcomes in the North Hartford community. And, while children may be labeled “bad” or youth as “criminal”, Jamison knows there is more to the story.

Rather than criminality, many children and youth are really expressing pain, sadness, fear, anger, and suicidal ideation in destructive ways. Through Individual Counseling and Anger Management groups, Build A Better You, LLC’s DBT informed Programs’ curriculum equips them with positive tools, opportunities, and support in learning different ways to control destructive behaviors and improve the quality of their lives. Jamison said the programs are designed to address the core issues many people face in North Hartford.

And, she should know. Jamison grew 4 blocks away from Swift where her mother Olivia still lives. She says it all begins with family. “I was fortunate to have positive examples from my mother and father. Both of them were committed to community,” Jamison said. Indeed, her mom, Olivia Jamison, has put in plenty of work with Community Solutions during our pre-development phase and continues to be a community partner.

Terraine Jamison went on to obtain her Masters in Social Work and then to become a licensed LCSW, working for the State of Connecticut as a Social Worker in a detox center. Partnering with her father allows her to offer something unique—Clinical Martial Arts Services. There is also traditional martial arts opportunities offered for the general public.

Creating the Build A Better You, LLC mental health agency brings Jamison full circle. She leverages her professional achievements and personal community experiences in driving deeper mental health impacts for local residents, who many times, shy away from clinical services. “We are family-based, serving Black and Brown people from this area. We know their struggles. We speak their language. We understand,” she said. In speaking with her, aside from her deep focus and professionalism, she revealed something unexpected—humility. “We all have some things we need to work on. That’s why it’s our first priority to equip people with these tools and help to build a better you.” Hey Terraine, Olivia and Dr. Ghazi, the Swift Team is excited to have you here and we truly believe that you will not only help build better people in the community, you are already helping to build a better Swift Campus!


Check them out at www.buildabetteryoullc.com




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The Swift Factory is a project of Community Solutions, which works to end homelessness and the conditions that create it.

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