By: Scott Priestle, Community Matters Board Chair
Carson held a new Cincinnati Reds backpack and flashed a smile I have not often seen from him. “My backpack just ripped,” he said. “They tried to fix it, but it was still loose.”
He didn’t say who “they” are, and I was afraid to ask. It might be his parents, but that is not always a safe assumption in an urban neighborhood like Lower Price Hill, where poverty is entrenched and stability is relative.
For at least an hour this morning, in a crowded gymnasium at Oyler School, the stress of the daily struggle gave way to hopeful collaboration.
Carson has a new backpack thanks to the Reds Community Fund. He and his neighbors will soon have a few new gathering spaces, too, thanks to the Reds and a collection of business, civic and non-profit organizations who have pledged to concentrate significant resources to helping the struggling neighborhood this spring.
The City of Cincinnati chose Lower Price Hill for its bi-annual Neighborhood Enhancement Program, a 90-day blitz of concentrated city resources on a single neighborhood. The Reds Community Fund chose LPH for its annual Community Makeover, in partnership with Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the Cincinnati Zoo. And organizations like Oyler School, Community Matters and Education Matters, Santa Maria, Bloc Ministries and the Community Learning Center Institute continue to invest in the neighborhood and its residents.
In the past year, Community Matters has completed a $10 million renovation of the former St. Michael’s campus; re-opened a thrift store, food pantry and community event center; renovated a local playground and built multiple community gardens. In the coming months, it will open a co-op laundromat and work with the Reds and Santa Maria to renovate and re-open a youth center.
It is telling that the laundromat will be the only one in the neighborhood, and the youth center – in a former Boys & Girls Club facility that Community Matters recently purchased – will replace the only one in the neighborhood, allowing Santa Maria to move its programs out of its current, cramped office. The recent and pending investment is not enough to overcome years of disinvestment in the neighborhood.
I have participated in Oyler’s mentoring program for the past five years, and I have worked with a dozen kids who carried baggage to school every day that I never knew as a child. Carson is the most stoic of those kids (he rarely offers even a minor insight into his life outside Oyler) but also the best reader. I can imagine his life taking any number of paths over the next 10 years, regardless of how the neighborhood changes. But I like his chances more if there is more collaboration like we are seeing right now.
“This is your chance to dream,” Jerome Wright of the Reds Community Fund said as he led a small group through the soon-to-be-renovated youth center. “Dream big.”
Article published with permission of author. Source: http://viewedfromthehill.blogspot.com/2016/03/collaborating-for-community-in-need.html