When Kenny Mosley got the opportunity to open a YMCA in southeast Fort Worth’s Renaissance Heights neighborhood in 2018, he couldn’t say no.
“To bring (a YMCA) into a community that was exactly like the one that I grew up in was really just a fantastic opportunity,” Mosley said.
Before moving to Fort Worth to become director of the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth, Mosley had established himself as a champion of the YMCA in his hometown of Indianapolis. There, he served as the senior director of membership and wellness at the Greater Indianapolis YMCA.
While serving in that role, he helped develop national programming around subjects such as chronic disease prevention and the social determinants of health in his neighborhood in inner-city Indianapolis.
He soon learned about a national neighborhood revitalization model called purpose-built communities, he said. The model focuses on increasing racial equity and economic mobility by focusing on mixed income housing, community wellness and education.
Now, Mosley, 35, is bringing what he learned to the Renaissance Heights Foundation, where he works as the executive director.
The Renaissance Heights Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that is dedicated to revitalizing the neighborhood. Mosley’s job is coordinating with all the partner organizations, including the YMCA, ACH Child and Family services and housing developers Columbia Residential and Housing Channel to ensure the development efforts run smoothly. His work ensures partner organizations don’t operate in silos and work collaboratively.
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The foundation’s goal is to revitalize the Renaissance Heights neighborhood using the purpose-built community model, focusing on racial equity, health and economic mobility by concentrating on three pillars: mixed-income housing, community wellness and college education pipelines.
The area once hosted an orphanage run by the Masonic Lodge. But when funding dried up, the masons closed the orphanage in 2005 and the land was sold, according to the Renaissance Heights United website. A group of real estate investors bought the Masonic Home, and launched the development effort.
The community has seen more than $300 million invested and 600 jobs created so far, Mosley said. Funders in the community include Columbia Residential, Charles Schwab Bank and individual donations.
The neighborhood now has mixed-income and senior apartments, schools, shops and health services in the area.
Mosley believes being a leader in the community revitalization space means being a problem-solver, solution-finder and a good listener. The most important role, he added, is being an educator.
“I do believe that education is the equalizer,” Mosley said. “Because when you’re educated, you can make healthier decisions, healthier choices.”
The path to his role wasn’t straightforward or planned, Mosley said.
He grew up with a family who are gospel enthusiasts and musically inclined. The music of artists like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Sammy Davis Jr. was always playing in his childhood home.
Family members were expected to be in the choir or play an instrument. In middle school and high school, Mosley said, he was expected to be involved in a music program such as orchestra, choir or band.
Sports or other extracurricular activities were encouraged, but the foundation of his family has always been music, he said.
“We did community through music,” Mosley said. “Basically, it was our home.”
His gift wasn’t necessarily in music – he wasn’t the best vocalist. When he turned 7, he started to find what he was good at: physical activity. His mother enrolled him in tap and ballet dancing, where he learned coordination and rhythm.
“I was the kid growing up where I had football practice, basketball practice, ran track, all of that,” he said. “But I also had my bag with my dance shoes.”
As a teenager, Mosley worked at summer camps for people with disabilities — what he calls one of the best things that ever happened to him.
“That really inspired me to not only want to work with and advocate for able-bodied and behavior … quote unquote, ‘normal,’ but, everybody, right? All,” he said.
What started as choreographing show tunes for his school show choir turned into a career. He was eventually hired to travel to local different high schools to choreograph for competitive teams.
While he didn’t know it at the time, those experiences taught him about the power of connection that he uses in his role today.
“I got to travel this country and see the different communities and the people that made up those communities, engage with them, build relationships with them,” he said.
In college, Mosley studied adaptive physical education and health at college at Ball State, along with getting certified as a trainer and facilitator at the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
When working as the wellness director at the local YMCA in Indianapolis, he conducted research and helped implement national programming for chronic disease prevention and social determinants of health. Those issues are important to him — many of his family members had chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
The YMCA played a big part in his own neighborhood being revitalized, Mosley said.
“At the time, I didn’t know a lot about the purpose-built model,” Mosley said. “Other than that there was a community wellness piece to it. And with the YMCA being one of the service delivery partners, I became the champion for the YMCA.”
Mosley eventually knew he wanted to go from a partner to a quarterback in a purpose-built community model. In 2021, he became the executive director for the Renaissance Heights Foundation.
Mark and Shauna Trieb were the investors who bought the 200 acres that used to be the Masonic orphanage, which is now a mixed-use development. They also started the Renaissance Heights Foundation. Mark Trieb serves as a board member for the foundation and Shauna Trieb is the treasurer.
Mosley has a huge heart for community building and work, Shauna Trieb said. She sees that through Mosley’s involvement in the community, from volunteering to do a bike day with children to building relationships with city staff and community members.
Mark Trieb said Mosley always has a smile on his face, is willing to listen and learn and holds a lot of empathy for clients – all attributes that encompass a good “point person.”
“He’s got tremendous energy. He’s a spark plug and he gets things done,” Mark Trieb said. “We look back and say that that really was a happy day for us when he came on board.”
Revitalizing a community is about connecting and empowering people, Mosley said, as well as serving as a conduit to bring their vision for a neighborhood to life.
Bianca Kemp, operations manager at Uplift Education and a resident in Renaissance Heights, met Mosley through the Renaissance Heights Foundation. She describes Mosley as charismatic and a leader that is able to bring people together.
“He’s doing it from a sense that he really would like to see the community benefit from all of these different partners coming together. To actually give a much better experience to people who live within a community,” Kemp said. “It’s not about trying to just get a community off the ground.”
At Renaissance Heights meetings, for example, Mosley has suggestions of people to connect with if a partner organization wants to offer other services or wants to grow in a particular area.
“There are many times that I see him connecting with other people just to be that one person that actually can help others to thrive and grow even if it’s not directly related to his current mission or vision that he has in that moment,” Kemp said.
Mosley’s hope is that the community eventually will be empowered and inspired to serve one another.
“Part of the hope is that the community doesn’t need a community quarterback to do these things, because it has such an engaged and empowered community,” he said. “And the people that make up that community are so connected and in that they have everything or they have to have the access that they need to continue doing the work.”
In the next phase of development, Mosley will help coordinate new initiatives, including the development of 246 affordable homes across 27 acres, the creation of a business accelerator and commercial space and improvements to Happy Park, among other initiatives.
The hardest part is waiting for change, Mosley said. But the rewarding nature of the job keeps him there.
“It becomes more than just a labor of love,” Mosley said. “Because you see, from the little kids … all the way through to our elderly folks, you see the impact doing good has on people. For me, it just fills my bucket.”
Kenny Mosley bio:
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana
Moved to Fort Worth: 2018
Family: Daughter, Gabby
University of Dayton, MBA, business administration; Ball State University, bachelor’s in health, physical education/adaptive physical Education & Fitness; North Central High School.
Community Development/Neighborhood Revitalization: Executive Director, Renaissance Heights Foundation – Purpose Built Communities; associate Executive Director and Executive Director, YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth; wellness director, senior director of membership & wellness, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis; facilitator/trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Kenny’s volunteer experience includes serving on foundations, nonprofit, charter school and local government boards; institutional committees, community committees; participating in student career mentorship and advising to advance evidence-based efforts in place-based community revitalization.
Currently he serves on the board of directors for the following: Young Women’s Leadership Academy Foundation, The Ladder Alliance, Tarrant County CPS, Community Partners of Tarrant County, and Uplift Education Fort Worth
His committee service includes: Ball State University Young Alumni Council Advisory Committee, Southeast Fort Worth Inc. Design Review Committee, Grow Southeast Steering Committee and University of Dayton Student & Career Development Mentor Program.
First job: Mowing lawns, shoveling snow and taking out trash for my senior neighbors.
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: Reflect with some brutal honesty. As Jim Collins outlines in “Good to Great,” the most impactful leaders “confront the brutal facts.” Every initiative has strengths, opportunities and some areas for growth or attention.
Best advice ever received: Seize the day, seek out some adventure and leave the world a little bit better than you found it.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.