September 27, 2023

Precinct One CERT

Written by: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed. D.

Precinct One CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is a nonprofit organization that provides the community of Independent Heights with different resources they may need. John Branch, who is the founder of the organization saw a need for the community and made efforts to turn his vision into a reality. The building that currently houses Precinct One Cert used to be a police storefront. Branch played an integral part of getting the police storefront in the community as he submitted a proposal for the need, and the storefront came to existence in 1995.

The police who occupied the building moved out five years ago, and Branch then “started an initiative with the city council and the mayor” to get the community a multi-service center. He made it known to Mayor Tuner that “We don’t have a multi-service center, let us provide services to our community. He then “negotiated with the city, and in the last year they came up with a deal.”

This agreement was signed on October 4th, 2021. In the agreement it was noted that the organization had to pay for and take care of everything themselves, which included renovations and office furniture just to name a few items. Since the organization is a nonprofit, all their resources and funds are strictly donation based. “From that time to this day, we’ve put in labor material almost 60 to $78,000 in the building. It was in that bad of shape. So that’s money out of our pockets, donations, wherever we can get it from.”

Today, Precinct One Cert provides different resources to the community such as food, COVID testing, hosting educational classes, and a handful of other resources. They also provide different services during floods, hurricanes, and other disasters that may arise.

Every person who is involved with the organization are strictly volunteers. “We’re all volunteers, nobody gets paid. If it was a lovely job, everybody would be doing it,” Branch mentioned. One person who has been working with Branch diligently is Natasha Johnson, who is one of the board members. She stated, “We have worked through this dream, and it’s been a rough five years, but we’re here and this is just the beginning.”

The main priority and goal for Precinct One Cert is to put resources back into the community. They want to be the multi-service center that the community can go to for all their various needs. Branch and Johnson have plans on doing events such as food banks, HIV testing, blood banks and so much more. “Our dream is to put services out, so this is our multi-center,” Branch stated.

Since Johnson and Branch grew up in the community, they are confident in knowing what the community needs. Johnson mentioned that “Everything in the community is important to us. Since we grew up in the community, we know where the community has come from, and we know where the community needs to go.”

Precinct One Cert had its grand opening on February 19th and was greatly attended. Many community members attended as well as politicians. Amongst those were Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Precinct One Cert aims to serve the community and is always open. They want the community to feel comfortable in seeking help when they need it. Precinct One Cert started as a dream and now it is a reality, and this is only the beginning.



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