In 1993, R. William “Bill” Van Sant, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Lukens Inc., a fortune 500 company, urged business leaders to join forces to help the community address the serious social and economic conditions facing the area. As a result, a coalition of 18 businesses formed the Coatesville Area Partners for Progress (CAPP) to initiate, support and influence activities which will improve the quality of life in the Coatesville Area. Bill and other business leaders realized that sustained improvement depended on the capacity of every segment of the community to work together, Bill has provided valuable leadership that is crucial to the city's ability to adapt to changing conditions.
Through CAPP, work groups, comprised of people of all complexions, ethnicity, political persuasion and socio-economic status, set the direction for revitalization efforts. City government, business and religious leaders, public housing residents and the general public work side by side on community problems. Utilizing focus groups, public forums, workshops and planning sessions, community driven strategies are developed and implemented.
Bill's personal involvement as chairperson of the newly formed nonprofit organization helped mobilize a convergence of interest in the city's revitalization. He, along with other business leaders, donate time, money and support services. Nearly $10 million has been raised for community projects over the past three years. Most recently, another $16.4 million has been awarded to implement a revitalization plan that evolved out of a series of community workshops.
Much needed affordable housing is being built in areas previously plagued by blight and open drug trafficking. Neighborhood groups are directing the creation of a new park and the restoration of an existing park. A historically significant structure is under construction to create a multi-purpose cultural center, further advancing their efforts to use the arts as a community building tool. Computer equipment has been upgraded to improve the library's services and a youth employment program provides jobs for more than 100 children during the summer months.
Bill has volunteered his time and allocated unprecedented financial, staff support and in-kind services. His personal involvement and leadership are invaluable and why the community has made such significant strides.