Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Slam Dunk for Browntown!

By Meredith Stuart 
Ten months ago, our team of six Public Allies was welcomed to the Browntown community to complete our Team Service Project.  We were to work with Browntown residents, neighborhood youth and local government officials to increase the capacity and sustainability of youth initiatives in the community.  Our team was lucky to have a group of truly invested community partners from the Browntown Civic Association, the City Council, neighborhood institutions, and of course the BCA Kidz Club - a junior civic association run by local teenagers to give the young people of the neighborhood something to do and a safe place to be.  
Browntown Kidz Club members
Early on, we conducted a focus group with Browntown’s young leaders to identify a project.  They decided that a neighborhood basketball league and cheerleading squad would have the widest appeal to their peers and offer the most potential for sustainability.  The Public Allies Team started to meet with the BCA Kidz Club twice monthly in order to improve their sustainability as a self-governing group and their succession planning to engage new members to replace members who age out of the group.  By leading these activities, we helped them to develop a mission statement, a case for support, position descriptions, internal and external communication strategies, and an increased comfort with networking and elevator pitches.  
The confidence of the young leaders with whom we have been working has grown substantially over these last ten months.  In February, members of the BCA Kidz Club who attended a Stakeholders’ Meeting for their Basketball League found it difficult to be heard by the new adults in the room and difficult to assert their ownership over the league.  By April and May, the same representative was participating confidently with adults in a meeting about developing support for the Kidz Club and youth activities in general.  The Kidz Club also began to present updates about its activities and answer impromptu questions from the monthly Civic Association meeting, usually attended by over 30 adult residents.  They were interviewed extensively for a Front Page feature in the News Journal and were able to clearly communicate their message.  
The Basketball League has significantly increased the community’s support for it’s young people.  Many residents volunteered their time and donated their money (over $1500 was donated to the league from individuals)  to make sure that the league was a success.  There has simply been an increase in momentum in more ways than one.
The Basketball League has engaged over 90 young people from Browntown, Hedgeville and beyond.  It is incredibly popular and its success is a testament to the need to focus on the assets of the community and the projects that the community itself identifies.  The Basketball League was conceived by the BCA Kidz Club and a group of dedicated residents of all ages with incredible social capital were able to make it happen.  In the short term, it has increased the reach of the BCA Kidz Club and young residents’ interest in their programs and activities.  
In the long term, our work with the Browntown community has inspired collaboration with Parkway Academy, the Hedgeville Civic Association and Girl’s Inc.  The foundation of these partnerships are built on a shared desire to support and grow youth initiatives in the area and we are optimistic that they will continue in the long term.  

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Public Allies Delaware – What’s Not to Like?


I am always excited to see the return of October because during those 31 days I get to be part of an effort to raise awareness about the seriousness of breast cancer, reminding everyone that 40,000 women in the United States still die annually from this disease. But no matter how busy I am, I set aside one morning in October to attend Meet the Allies and meet a new class of idealistic young adults who, over ten months serving as Public Allies, will make a difference in non-profits like the one I serve.

Today, think of how vital Public Allies Delaware is to organizations trying to stretch a dollar to the far reaches of the state during a time when we are still recovering from the worst economic downturn in more than 50 years. Frankly it’s huge and I bet the directors of organizations such as West End Neighborhood House, Delaware Hospice, United Way and the Metropolitan Urban League – just a few of the organizations where Public Allies now serve – heartily agree.

Chadeia Mitchell, a second year Ally who will work in our organization for another 3 months as part of the 2012-13 class, has already been through a rigorous leadership training program led by professionals in the region’s non-profit world. We expect her to extend our capacity for outreach and survivorship programming and we truly believe she will continue to develop professionally. And who knows where that will lead?

One of our former Public Allies, Caitlin Dalik, was so outstanding in her Ally placement with DBCC that when her year was up she found fulltime employment with us as our Public Affairs Coordinator. Another former Ally, Kelly Kershaw, was similarly impressive and is now an Executive Assistant with the Coalition. Both Kelly and Caitlin have become integral parts of our organization because of Public Allies Delaware.

It’s been my observation that the recruitment of candidates for this program, which extends from the First State all across the United States, has only gotten stronger. These young people are so impressive that we joke that they're a little intimidating in both their passion and skill. As for the training they receive, it’s gotten better, too. The motto of this outstanding organization, with its commitment to leadership training in the non-profit sphere, could well be: Public Allies Delaware – What’s Not to Like? 

Vicky Tosh-Morelli is Director of Information Services for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Alumni Spotlight - Twanna Howard

By Roger Hesketh, Community Engagement Manager

Earlier this year, I caught up with Twanna Howard, Public Allies class of 2008 alumnus.  In this video interview, Twanna shares with us her success story, her passion for working with kids, and why Public Allies is so important to her.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Working Toward a Clean Edgemoor

By the Edgemoor Gardens TSP team

Our Team Service Project involves working with the Edgemoor Gardens community in Wilmington, Delaware to help create a cleaner community environment. Our purpose is to find ways for the residents to dispose of garbage in a better way, restore community pride by improving how the neighborhood looks, and bring the community together to accomplish something positive.

During our tour of the community we learned that Edgemoor Gardens has a very diverse population. The majority of residents rent their homes while the others own them. It was a pleasure to see that there were residents who maintained their properties very well. It showed us the great potential the neighborhood has. In addition, these residents could possibly help in creating sustainability for these efforts in the neighborhood.

We’re looking forward to meeting new residents and identifying their gifts, talents and passions that can be used in a collaborative effort within Edgemoor Gardens.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Meeting Browntown

By the Browntown TSP Team

Three weeks ago, members of the Browntown Civic Association (BCA) welcomed our team of six Public Allies to their neighborhood.  Browntown is a contained, residential neighborhood in southwestern Wilmington, between Maryland Avenue and I-95, from 9th Avenue to Lower Oak Street.  It takes about five minutes to walk from one end to another, 20 to make a loop all the way around it.  We’ve been tasked with assisting the BCA to address the lack of activities and resources available to their youth.  According to Bernadette, our main contact from the BCA, the residents of Browntown often complain about how the kids hang out on their stoops and play on the corners.  Even though there are two parks along the edges of the neighborhood, Bernadette says the youth don’t know how to use them. 

We have a broad proposal about improving youth programming in Browntown. After our first meeting with the BCA, we were clear on the problems they wished to address: finding a physical space for the BCA and youth activities, securing funding, and giving the neighborhood youth something to do and somewhere to be other than playing on the street corners.  But we had no idea of what sort of solutions they wished to pursue, or how to make our impact on Browntown sustainable – an important buzzword in community development.  Our team spent a very frustrating Friday training trying to complete mapping activities for a project that we had not defined and a neighborhood that some of us had never seen. 

We were skipping steps.

We needed to meet the community first.

So we helped the BCA pass out candy on Halloween.  For some families, it was the only stop for trick-or-treating: parents noticed that most houses were dark and they didn’t want their children knocking on strangers’ doors.  They thanked Bernadette for providing a space for their children to enjoy Halloween.  As we gave candy to passing teddy bears, super heroes and one futuristic robot, we learned a lot about Browntown.  Like the fact that the local police force welcomes opportunities to engage with the neighborhood.  And that the desire for a safe space for the neighborhood youth is coming from the community as a whole.  We also learned about some obstacles that the BCA has faced in collaborating with other local organizations.

On Halloween, we started to meet Browntown.  It was a good first step – a needed one.  Now, with a walking tour of the neighborhood under our belt and focus groups planned for this coming week, we are looking forward to Step Two. 

Friends of Judy Johnson Park - Hilltop

By the Hilltop TSP Team

The Hilltop Team Service Project group is very excited to begin working with in this community.   The proposed project is to work with members of the community to build a sustainable and neighborhood driven “Friends of Judy Johnson Park” group.   Currently, the park plays host to children and families across the area. With the establishment of a “Friends of the Park” group, the West Side will have both a sustainable and reliable location to facilitate various activities and events year round.

Our TSP group has already met with several community leaders and toured the neighborhood. Over the next few weeks we plan to meet with the West Side Neighborhood Association, and connect with various community stakeholders to identify potential partners for an upcoming “Friends of Judy Johnson Park” association. While working in the West Side, we are very enthusiastic and ready to practice the five core principles of Public Allies: Diversity, Inclusion, Continuous Learning, Collaboration, and Asset Based Community Development.  Going forward we are ready to work, learn, and leave our mark on the entire Hilltop community.

Located in Wilmington’s Historic West Side Neighborhood, Judy Johnson Park was named after the famed baseball hero.  Judy was a legendary player in the Negro Baseball league and was the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball.   He relocated to Wilmington later in his life where he passed away in 1989.

Simonds Gardens Youth Cafe Store

By the Simonds Gardens TSP Team

We are a dynamic group of community mobilizers supporting the efforts of youth engagement in the community of Simonds Gardens. The team consists of five Public Allies and five local community leaders. The proposal presented by the community called for the Public Allies to work with youth within the community to create a Community Youth Cafe Store in the Rose Hill Community Center. The store will serve the residents and the agencies that come into the Rose Hill Community Center. All proceeds from the cafe will go toward educational projects, programs and events planned for the youth within the community.

Thus far, the Public Allies have met with the community leaders, both adults and youth, to discuss the initial steps of the mapping process and to create a relationship between the Allies and the community. We are excited to work with the Simonds Gardens community and hope this cafe will serve as a skill-building project for the community youth as well as provide an alternative form of engagement.