Community Investment Profiles
lien forward ohio turns vacant lots into community assets
Volunteers from Lien Forward Ohio, Treez Please and YouthBuild Mahoning Valley celebrate after planting trees on a vacant lot on Lafayette Street, across from Jubilee Gardens in Youngstown's Brier Hill neighborhood. Lien Forward Ohio, V&M Star and city government have been working together to tear down blighted, abandoned homes and turn some newly-vacant lots into meadows.
The Brier Hill neighborhood on Youngstown’s north side will never be what it once was.
Gone are the days when the neighborhood was home to hundreds of ethnic families who came to work in the Valley’s long-idled steel mills and to raise their families with specific traditions and customs.
But the neighborhood, thanks in part to the work of Lien Forward Ohio, is on the rebound. Community gardens, including a vineyard, are now growing where condemned houses had once stood; residents have taken over and are maintaining vacant lots; and the overall appearance of the neighborhood has improved dramatically.
Lien Forward Ohio, which transfers vacant and abandoned land to people who will care for it, has adopted the Brier Hill area as a focus for some of its work. From overseeing demolitions of blighted houses to planting meadows on empty lots, the goal of Lien Forward is to help bring stability to neighborhoods and improve real estate tax collections in Mahoning County.
The theory behind much of Lien Forward Ohio’s work is that abandoned properties lead to trouble and to a poor overall neighborhood and community image.
The Raymond John Wean Foundation has supported the work of the organization.
YOUTH BUILD LINKS TROUBLED YOUTH WITH OPPORTUNITIES
Sara was determined not to give up on high school.
She didn’t want the fact that she had failed seventh grade and had a baby in the eighth grade to stop her from graduating from high school and making something of her life.
But it wasn’t easy to juggle high school with raising her child and she chose to leave the traditional high school and attend Life Skills of Trumbull County. Once at Life Skills, she joined Youth Build, a 9-month program that allowed her to finish high school, earn money, learn work skills and develop a passion for more education.
She credits YouthBuild with why she is now working full-time and nearing completion of an Associate’s degree in communications.
YouthBuild of Trumbull County, operated by the Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority, is a 9-month program that targets “at-risk” youth from 16 to 24 years-old.
The program, supported by The Raymond John Wean Foundation and others, serves high school drop outs and those who often have other barriers to overcome, including low income, various disabilities or criminal backgrounds.
Potential Development believes that all children can learn
Every day for a year it was the same routine. The teacher would patiently sit next to the boy and slowly say the same sentence while pointing to the words printed on a piece of paper.
“I want cheese balls.”
Each day, the teacher hoped that the 7 year-old might try to say one of the words on his own. After all, she knew that he liked cheese balls and would gobble them down as soon as he was handed some. But weeks and months passed with total silence.
The teacher refused to give up. “I want,” she said, waiting and hoping that her silence might trigger him to finish the sentence.
One day, just as she was going to reach for the cheese balls to give him a handful, she heard him speak the first words that ever came out of his mouth. “Cheese balls,” he said.
The teacher started to cry.
The aide in the room began to cry.
This was a huge breakthrough, the kind that the staff of Potential Development of Youngstown, works for every day with its 54 students who suffer from Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.
Some of the students who attend the school don’t speak; others can’t keep quiet; some can’t stand to be touched; others want hugs and attention. Some learn way above grade level; others need serious remediation.
Now in its 57th year of existence and its ninth year of serving Autistic children, Potential Development operates with one key principle: All students can learn.
Eastern Ohio P-16 Partnership focused on ways to improve education, economy
Problem 1: If $1 is spent on early childhood education, how much of a return will that $1 bring?
Problem 2: If students have an opportunity for early learning before Kindergarten, how much more likely are they to graduate from high school? How much more likely are they to attend college?
Problem 3: Companies who have invested in early childhood education say that every dollar has yielded them how much in return?
Problem 1: Studies have consistently shown that every $1 spent on early childhood education yields the local economy an immediate return of $1.86 and a longer-term more general societal return of $8 or more.
The research is clear and emphatic: pre-school programs help stimulate the overall economy.
Problem 2: Students who attend pre-school programs before kindergarten are 40 percent more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not and 200 percent more likely to go to college.
Data has shown that it is critical to encourage students and parents to start thinking about college as early as possible in students’ scholastic careers.
Problem 3: Coalitions of business leaders have been studying the effects of early childhood education programs on their businesses and have concluded that a $1 investment in such programs as affordable daycare and early childhood academic programs, yields a whopping $7 return.
YOUNGSTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT CORP.
SEEKING TO IMPROVE LIFE IN NEIGHBORHOODS
COMMUNITY INVESTMENT PROFILE
Many Mahoning Valley residents fondly remember Idora Park and are quick to share stories of their rides on the Wildcat rollercoaster, dances they attended in the ballroom or boat trips down the lost river.
For decades, however, much of the public dialog about Idora Park has been limited to remembrances of what was and how sad it is that the amusement park left. Since 1984 when the amusement park closed, the neighborhood surrounding it has suffered steady decline. Crime. Abandoned homes. Residents who fear leaving their homes.
The once vibrant Idora neighborhood has become a living laboratory for neighborhood decay and an ideal first project for a new organization that seeks to improve Youngstown neighborhoods. The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) has adopted the Idora Park neighborhood as one of its first demonstration projects. YNDC, formed in 2009, plans to reclaim and rehabilitate vacant properties, preserve existing homes, increase neighborhood pride, create a commercial corridor on Glenwood and work to ensure that the neighborhood is a safe place to live.
The YNDC has staked out big plans.
BEATITUDE HOUSE LAUNCHES GREEN CLEAN; GIVES WOMEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK AND BECOME OWNERS OF COMPANY
COMMUNITY INVESTMENT PROFILE
Bouchra Semlani lifts a feather duster up to a ceiling fan and then ducks. “A little dusty here,” she says as she smiles and sneezes.
Talking as she continues dusting, explains why her job with Green Clean is the best one she’s ever had.
“I am working for myself, really,” she says.
Semlani is one of a handful of women working to become owners of Green Clean, a for-profit arm of The Beatitude House, which also owns preferred stock in the company.
Green Clean, the collective idea of Beatitude House architects and a handful of consultants, launched in August 2009 as a commercial and residential cleaning service employing women who work for ownership of the company.
Some of the women associates of Green Clean are former or current clients of the Beatitude House; others joined because they are excited about the idea of working with an employee-owned business.
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