MIAMI — Celebrating 22 years of community building, the St. John Community Development Corporation is gearing up for its ninth annual "Things are Cooking in Overtown" gala.

The faith-based non-profit has been working since 1985 to improve businesses, housing, childcare, human services and other quality of life issues in Miami's Overtown community. The event, set for Aug.15, will be held at a new venue this year: the Treetop Ballroom at Miami's Jungle Island.

“We moved to Parrot Island this year to raise the profile  of this event,” said David Alexander, the organization's president and CEO. “We want to recognize the contributions of people in the community and their good works and honor people making a difference.”

The organization was founded by the Rev. Henry Nevin and other members from the St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church in Miami who vowed to restore Overtown's community after the Miami riots in 1982.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Overtown thrived with businesses, theaters and schools. But in the early 1950s, the construction of the Interstate 95 expressway cut through the community, uprooting neighborhoods and displacing residences.

Since then, the community has struggled with poverty and violence.

“After the organization was started, the founders spent the next five years playing a pivotal role in gathering the black intelligence in the Miami community to debate the issues facing the community at the time,” Alexander said.

The organization has embarked on several projects since its inception, such as constructing a 35-unit affordable housing complex called St. John Village Homes, implementing the city of Miami's Commercial Facade Treatment Program, and providing project management for the improvement of 20 commercial structures in Overtown.


What: The St. John Community Development Corporation's 9th Annual "Things are Cooking in Overtown" gala.

Where: Treetop Ballroom at Jungle Island, 1111 Jungle Trail (off MacArthur Causeway) in Miami.

When: Aug. 15 at 5:30 p.m.

Cost: $50 per person; family tables cost $500; corporate tables are $1,500.

Contact: 305-372-0682 or