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 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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