A couple months ago, I found myself in talks with Bryan Gillooly (Executive Dir) and Sister Linda (Board Member) at Bellaire Puritas Development Corporation (BPDC). We were interviewing each other, as to whether or not I should be on the Board. Last night's Ward 20 Neighborhood Summit made me even happier that I accepted the position. The Summit combined dinner, a chance for neighbors to meet and talk with each other, poster style presentations by groups in the area doing quite a few good things for our community, and speeches. (Politicians spoke too and as you would predict they were a tad long winded and uh, political! But even they had some good info lol)
What impressed me? First, the commitment of the BPDC staff to keep adding on programs, efforts that help the community. And get this: an ever increasing effort to talk to residents, both home owners and business owners, to find out just what the neighborhood wants. Imagine that! Everyone had forms on the table allowing them to pass on what they wanted to see in the neighborhood or to express concerns they might have. Since I'm a big believer in this kind of interaction, I was excited to see this.
Some of the highlights:
1. The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) helps people pay their energy bills. As you can imagine, HEAP will be needed to help even more people this year. Prior to this year, our Ward 20 residents had to get to the HEAP office located in Clark Metro. Not impossible for those who drive, but for those taking public transportation? Because of bus transfers? 2 1/2 hour trip. Not conducive to seeking help! So Bryan Gillooly and the BPDC staff worked to get a satellite HEAP office set up at the BPDC office with separate HEAP staff people. Again I say, excellent dude!
2. Cleveland Public Theatre works with our community students through the STEP program (Student Theatre Enrichment Program). Our students put on two performances with CPT's assistance, one being at Jefferson Park this summer during the annual Ward 20 Ice Cream Social. The STEP program helps build student confidence and self esteem, while being just plain fun as well.
3. There is a gardening program at RG Jones and Riverside (see photos). Students not only garden, but then help market the produce. It's a way to teach students business and marketing skills along with helping them learn to garden and see the results of their efforts. It's an ongoing, wonderful program (I would love to help out with it next season).
4. We are the only Ward with a mediation program. Mostly, we all enjoy our neighbors but you know, every now and then a dispute arises. In order to resolve issues in a respectful way that also avoids legal action, Bellaire Puritas (BPDC) offers a mediation service. The mediation is also useful when teen issues arise.
5. The Cleveland Foundation is working with us on a Youth Development Program. The idea is to identify in-school and outside projects (like some of the ones above but a much longer list) that could help our Ward 20 students thrive.
Once a stereotype gets going, it's hard to break it. But truthfully, our schools are helping students thrive. All the elementary schools in our Ward are going to be brand spanking new. And if enhancement programs can help students thrive, no one will feel the need to pull their kids out, or move out of the neighborhood, because parents will continue to see the good results.
I'd like to use the gardening analogy about all of the above. You prepare the dirt (good enhancement programs at schools and mediation services available), You plant the seeds (like the CPT/STEP theatre projects) and you get a vibrant community of neighbors helping, talking with and enjoying other neighbors. Again I say, excellent dude!
To contact Bellaire Puritas about any thing listed here or not, call 216-671-2710. h/t to Rachel Napolitano, the community organizer at BPDC for putting on a great Summit last night. Peace Out - 3C