Knowledge Quest founder and executive director Marlon Foster is grateful for the $20,000 Inner City Economic Development loan his organization received earlier this month from the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County.
The resources will be directed to Knowledge Quest’s main campus, which it owns and has operated from since 2003.
“Things like deferred maintenance and aesthetic and beautification efforts are those things that are really not the sexy opportunities that get folks excited, yet they are most needed,” said Foster. “We think it’s going to be an awesome project that is quite impactful.”
Knowledge Quest is a non-profit organization that offers assistance to families in crisis, provides counseling services at Universal Parenting Places, and operates the Green Leaf Farm and Jay Uiberall Culinary Academy.
“Our green learning farm is also on this campus, and that’s a transformation of 30 vacant lots and three abandoned buildings that are all being repurposed. It’s now a USDA-certified organic farm right in the core of the city,” said Foster.
The organization, which primarily serves the poverty-stricken 38126 and 38106 South Memphis neighborhoods, is best known for its extended learning academies and after school programs such as Kids Zone.
The new ICED Loan will help fund façade improvements, roof replacement, interior renovations, and campus walkways. Total project costs are estimated at just over $30,000, and Foster expects the work to take six to nine months to complete.
“We think there are a lot of smaller projects that will afford us an opportunity to leverage the resources from EDGE in a major way, so it will be a project where we can get a lot done for reasonable amount of money. We have vendors that are on board with giving us great rates,” he said.
The upcoming work will follow major renovations on the campus in the past year and a half, including new construction on some of the facilities, new sidewalks, irrigation systems and electrical upgrades.
“I do think something truly remarkable is happening in this pocket community,” said Foster. “We want to develop a model that we can share with the broader city and I think we can share with the nation.”