• In April of 1992, Reverend Fred L. Maxwell, with his vision of safe, decent and affordable housing for those without in our community, began the Grand Avenue Economic Community Development Corp. Known as GAECDC, our organization’s purpose was to raise the economic, educational and social levels of residents of low income communities by expanding opportunities to low income residents to obtain housing and to promote business opportunities in the economically underprivileged and depressed areas of the community.

    During this time, GAECDC bought two apartment complexes tp provide living spaces. It also provided educational programs on HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, entry into prenatal care, immunizations, parenting classes and social service referrals, as well as police participation to address drug problems in the community. During that time, GAECDC worked within its two apartment communities to acquire the housing to renovate the complexes into decent, affordable spaces. As we became successful in helping residents deal with the aforementioned social problems, we were however unable to obtain the financing to establish the housing for those we served.

    Then, in 1994, due to the tremendous need for permanent housing for the homeless in our community, GAECDC led an effort to apply for grant funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create permanent housing for ‘single, disabled homeless persons,’ a group rarely assisted. The effort was successful and our organization was awarded $4,800,000, over ten years, to create 100 units of permanent single-room occupancy housing. In November of 1996, we opened 75 units as the first of its kind single room occupancy apartment complex in the Central Florida area. The units quickly reached capacity and in 1998, we opened an additional 127 units at the same location. Over the past several years, we have developed over 560 units of permanent housing for homeless persons throughout Central Florida.

    Despite our accomplishments, many more persons in our community are still in dire need of safe, affordable housing. Here at Grand Avenue, we continually strive to expand this supply, each and every day.


    I have been an associate for over 10 years of this non-profit organization that provides permanent housing for the homeless, and now serve on its Board of Directors. The staff reach out and welcome residents from the homeless or about to be homeless population in Orlando, Florida and neighboring counties. The program is appropriately named “Pathlight HOME”, a title which aptly describes the dedication of its President and staff as they provide individual units to house and offer safety to it residents. This stability is essential for the residents to organize their lives and take advantage of the resources offered, i.e. supportive counseling, availability of staff who encourage and facilitate participation in community services. There is a spiritual dimension to the program as residents are encouraged to participate in programs offered by local Churches on site. Holidays are celebrated. Because of the generosity and commitment of the staff, the residents also begin to be concerned for the well being of others in the program. The locations of the programs over 500 units, some on West Colonial Drive and others on Orange Blossom Trail, are fortunate in that they are close to the homeless and observable by those who pass by who could be future volunteers and benfactors. The growth of Grand Avenue ECDC over the past 20 years is due to the dedication and commitment of its founder, Rev. Maxwell, and continued by the energy and zeal of their tireless Chief Executive. It is my privilege to be a part of this amazing outreach and welcome to those without a home in the Orlando area. Grace Rhoads, RGS, MSW.

    February, 2012.