Richard Townsell was born on Chicago’s West Side in the community of North Lawndale and grew up in public housing. After graduating from Northwestern University, he came back to the North Lawndale community after seeing firsthand the disparities between rich and poor school districts; he decided to take a job at his local church, Lawndale Community Church, as the Executive Director of Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC).
Under Richard’s 14-year tenure as the Executive Director, LCDC has completed over $60 million worth of real estate development projects in one of Chicago’s most challenging neighborhoods. To date, projects have included more than 150 single family homes and condos for low- to moderate-income families, more than 200 apartment units and a $3.1 million childcare facility, the Jubilee Family Resource Center, which serves 220 children and employs approximately 50 people.
Additionally, many other projects were started under Richard’s tenure including the recently completed Martin Luther King Apartments. which are located where Dr. King and his family lived in 1966 and were subsequently torn down. Hundreds of students have been mentored and provided college scholarships because of LCDC’s College Opportunity Program. LCDC purchased the building and managed the renovation that houses Lou Malnati’s restaurant, one of Chicago’s finest deep-dish pizza chains. In 2003, Richard was one of 17 national finalists to win the Leadership for a Changing World Award from the Ford Foundation for social justice work. He was also awarded the Distinguished Fellow at Leadership Greater Chicago’s 20th anniversary gala.
Richard left Lawndale CDC to work for Fannie Mae as a community development lender from 2006 to 2007. During this time, he closed over $20 million in loans. In December of 2007, he joined Bethel New Life, one of the country’s oldest and most pre-eminent community development corporations as the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, where he managed a staff of more than 300 and was responsible for the day-to-day operations.
Currently, Richard is the Executive Director of FEED, Fellowship Educational and Economic Development Corporation. He is responsible for the development of the 250,000-square-foot Legacy Project and all of the programs that fall under the FEED umbrella including after school educational, mentoring, business development, retail, GED, food pantry and workforce development programs.