A group of folks from all over the coun­try was in town learn­ing about the small grant pro­gram spon­sored by The Cleveland Foundation. You know, the one I’m on: Neighborhood Connections. A few of the com­mit­tee mem­bers [and one lucky al­ter­nate] were asked to go along for a neigh­bor­hood tour yes­ter­day and then share din­ner at Fire in Shaker Square.

Our first stop was at the St. Clair CDC, where we lis­tened to a cou­ple of grantees dis­cuss their projects, one group has cre­at­ed this ex­cel­lent wel­come bag for all of the renters in their com­mu­ni­ty. Not on­ly does it in­clude coupons and perks for lo­cal busi­ness­es, but it al­so pro­vides a lo­cal busi­ness phone di­rec­to­ry, vot­er reg­is­tra­tion ma­te­ri­als, city and coun­cil in­for­ma­tion and a wealth of oth­er things to make new peo­ple feel at home. The oth­er group re­ceived fund­ing to have a sum­mer fes­ti­val for the chil­dren in the neigh­bor­hood. The area, which the res­i­dents re­fer to as the ‘40s, is pret­ty di­verse, with old Eastern-European pop­u­la­tions, as well as hefty chunks of Chinese and African-American com­mu­ni­ties as well. It seems to be a neigh­bor­hood just get­ting start­ed in its re­vi­tal­iza­tion [and un­avoid­able gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, as some lake­front con­dos are be­ing built]. I was ac­tu­al­ly rid­ing my bike through this area a few weeks ago, and it is worth ex­plor­ing.

Then I was asked to speak a lit­tle about my sto­ry in­volv­ing Tremont, and since I can talk about Tremont all day, I tried to hit the ma­jor points on­ly. It has be­come in­creas­ing­ly ob­vi­ous to me with­in the past few weeks that I moved in to Tremont at ex­act­ly the right time, since hous­ing prices have in­creased enough [due, once again, to gen­tri­fi­ca­tion] that I couldn’t af­ford to live here now.

After I spoke, a com­mit­tee mem­ber from Glenville told his tale, as we ar­rived in Glenville. This is an area that used to have pow­er­ful block clubs but had fall­en on hard times. Historically, it was a heav­i­ly Jewish neigh­bor­hood but it is most­ly African-American now. The hous­ing stock in Glenville is ab­solute­ly amaz­ing, and not sur­pris­ing­ly, lots of peo­ple af­fil­i­at­ed with the Cleveland Clinic and University Circle are mov­ing in and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the low prop­er­ty val­ues and restor­ing the places. [Read: gen­tri­fi­ca­tion]. Our stop here was at a com­put­er lab for se­niors and and its com­pan­ion lab which trains the black com­mu­ni­ty in­to IC3 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Our next stop was The Passport Project in Buckeye, where we heard from sev­er­al grantees on how an­oth­er project of The Cleveland Foundation, Connecting Circles, had ben­e­fit­ed them. They were the pi­lot group for this pro­gram, which en­cour­ages net­work­ing and knowl­edge-shar­ing among the groups, with as­sis­tance from a la­dy who teach­es about non-prof­it work and com­mu­ni­ty or­ga­niz­ing at Case. Each group [some which have been in ex­is­tence for 40 years] was very en­thu­si­as­tic and en­gaged in the Connecting Circles pro­gram, so it seems to be a suc­cess, es­pe­cial­ly since the peo­ple said that it had reen­er­gized their own per­son­al projects and had borne fruit al­ready. The pro­gram, for them at least, had al­ready fin­ished but they de­cid­ed to keep meet­ing nonethe­less.

Then we went to Fire and I was told to or­der what­ev­er I want­ed [Danger! Danger, TCF!]. So we got a bot­tle of Mark West Pinot Noir, I had flat bread with ramp pesto, roast­ed toma­toes and melt­ed brie, a wa­ter­cress and oth­er stuff sal­ad, and filet mignon with onion rings and some oth­er sort of onion/​potato fried thing. [Obviously, the on­ly thing I mem­o­rized was the ap­pe­tiz­er]. The ap­pe­tiz­er was de­li­cious, and is a recipe I shall steal. The Mark West was ex­cel­lent, the sal­ad was de­li­cious, and the filet mignon was out of this world. I don’t get steak but once a year, in Canada, so I in­dulged. I wasn’t a big fan of the onion rings or the onion/​potato thinger be­cause they just tast­ed like fry­ing. For dessert I had crème brûlée. Oh how I love crème brûlée.

There are so many en­gaged and in­volved peo­ple in Cleveland, do­ing their neigh­bor­hood ac­tivist work to make their com­mu­ni­ties stronger that I’m glad TCF is giv­ing them tac­ti­cal as­sis­tance to en­cour­age their growth. Talking with the folks last night from oth­er foun­da­tions gave me some great proof that en­gaged peo­ple are en­gaged peo­ple no mat­ter if you’re from Connecticut or from Texas. Oh, the thinks we could think [and do] if more of us were as in­volved in our own com­mu­ni­ties.

2 thoughts on “Fire

  1. Great idea, “Neighborhood Connections,” but Cleveland’s neigh­bor­hoods have some se­ri­ous re­al­tion­al is­sues that I don’t see any­one from “Neighborhood Connections” ad­dress­ing. I hope “Neighborhood Connections” is not a smoke screen by the foun­da­tions to hid be­hind while they ign­or the re­al is­sues.

    Frank A. Mills
    Urban Paradoxes

  2. You sound pret­ty bit­ter about the pro­gram for some rea­son, Frank. What re­la­tion­al is­sues are you talk­ing about that the Foundation needs to ad­dress through Neighborhood Connections? They pro­vide over $650k year­ly in small grants to grass­roots groups in all of Cleveland’s neigh­bor­hoods…

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