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 creme brulee. Oh how I love creme brulee.

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 Replies

  • 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

  • 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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