A needs survey distributed in March received 162 responses. Residents outlined what they felt needed to change in the neighborhood. Impact Cleveland hosted a large group meeting to determine the top issues.
Thirty residents attended the meeting and highlighted four areas of focus:
- Drug activity;
- Litter, trash, debris and dumping;
- Property problems; and
- Traffic and speeding.
Subcommittees have since been formed to address each perceived problem. The small groups meet the third Tuesday of every month at the Blythe Family Support Center. Committee members brainstorm and work to create change on a “micro” level.
All four subcommittees and interested community members converge the first Tuesday of every month at the Blythe Family Support Center to discuss pressing issues.
Impact Cleveland director Dustin Tommey has been encouraged by the response and looks forward to the continued growth.
“I would like to see the groups take ownership of their problems and bring in strategic partners who can help address the issue,” he said. “Alone, we can only get so much done.”
Evidence of the subcommittees’ work throughout the Blythe community has already become evident. Fourteen ‘No Littering’ signs have been placed in and around the neighborhood. Each reminds residents and visitors there is a $2,500 maximum fine for the penalty. Strategic partners Keep America Beautiful and Coca-Cola have also come alongside the initiative to provide support.
According to Tommey, Coca-Cola has sponsored a recycling program. Four large plastic bins have been placed behind the Blythe Family Support Center. The bins are marked for paper, cardboard, recyclable plastic No. 1 and aluminum.
The remaining three subcommittees have reportedly been hard at work determining the needs of the community in accordance to their topics. Tommey predicted strategic partners will be key to enacting change when dealing with issues like traffic, speeding and drug activity. It is hoped more community members will join the meetings once they realize the initiative is here to stay.
“People have to really see what is in it for them and believe that it is worth participating in,” Tommey said. “Some folks here in this community feel like they’ve been disregarded. For me, it is building a rapport and trust with those people and being a more visible presence — both Impact Cleveland and the neighborhood association.”
Continued Tommey, “By doing an event in partnership with all of these groups, we can have a positive presence here that basically earns the trust of folks, and also leads them to think [our ideas] are not just lip service. They are real.
“They are here and they mean business when it comes to [the community’s] best interest.”
The subcommittees and large group meetings are a component of a larger picture created by Impact Cleveland and the New Blythe Community Association. The areas of focus include: housing and physical revitalization; neighborhood safety; social revitalization; and workforce development.
Strides have already been made in addressing the various issues. Twenty beautification projects have been scheduled between Ocoee Outreach and Habitat for Humanity. Community residents have also held the first meeting for a Neighborhood Watch program.
Tommey explained he does not expect a complete neighborhood overhaul overnight.
“Something cannot be revitalized until it is stabilized. So neighborhood stabilization is really what is going on right now,” Tommey said. “…In every area, we’ve got developing things going on. What I would like to see is this year being more of a planning year where we are priming the pump for the next year being a more impactful year.”