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.

Coalition building on the Eastside

By the Eastside TSP Team

Meet the Team:
We are a group of Public Allies working with the Eastside Blueprint Committee.  Our names are: Sashalee King, Malcolm Roberts, Saresa Cooper, Dashon Jones, Jalpurnia Trader, and Lindsay Lancaster.

Our Ultimate Goal:
While we are working on creating a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), our goal is to help the Eastside team build a strong coalition that will identify and address the concerns within the community and work toward creating a sustainable change.

Our Project:
We are off to a great start with our team service project! We have
met three times with the Eastside Blueprint Communities (BC) team. In the meetings we learned about the history of the community and their goal to create a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). A CBA is an agreement between the stakeholders of the community (e.g. businesses, civic associations, churches, residents, etc.) and the developers. In order to create a CBA, we are building a coalition to ensure that the needs of the community are addressed.

Our Progress:
We started the coalition building process by identifying stakeholders such as residents, civic group leaders, and church leaders. We worked with the Eastside BC Team to invite and bring these leaders together for our Make a Difference Day meeting. At the event, we brought fifteen people together to discuss our purpose and invited them to brainstorm stakeholders within the community and express their concerns.

Community Wishes:
At our Make a Difference Day Meeting, the community expressed the following concerns and wishes for the future.
  • There are too many liquor stores and they are located too close to schools. Residents would like to see stores located further from schools.
  • Eastside residents would like to see more youth activities within the community
  • The community would like to see programs teaching people how to buy and own homes.
  • There is an interest in programs teaching residents how to grow and cook vegetables.

The Walking Tour:
Thank you to Alfie Moss, head of the BC Team and State Representative Stephanie Bolden for taking us on a tour of the Eastside on Saturday October 27, 2012. This tour gave the Allies the opportunity to gain a sense of the community and its environment. We explored several organizations such as Stepping Stones Credit Union. We also met a local owner of a barber shop who was interested in learning more about the coalition. Several members of the community actively engaged in conversations with us regarding their community concerns. We were excited to meet two young entrepreneurs in the community. The young ladies were between the ages of twelve and fourteen and they were selling cakes and cookies outside their home. We learned that the Eastside community has many assets that we hope to leverage in the future!

Our Next Steps:
We are working on organizing and compiling this list of stakeholders so we can begin contacting and engaging them with the Eastside BC Team. We also plan to follow-up with the connections we made in the community and invite them to learn more about the coalition.