Excited to announce $3.1 million grant from Cleveland Foundation

The continued funding supports our signature initiatives – the grassroots grants program and the work of the Neighbor Up network, a diverse group of Greater Cleveland residents striving to make positive change in their neighborhoods and find innovative solutions to larger health and employment issues plaguing communities. The foundation’s board of directors approved the three-year grant earlier this month.

“We could not do what we do without support from the Cleveland Foundation,” said Tom O’Brien, program director of Neighborhood Connections. “The funding allows residents to continue working for meaningful change – not only in their own neighborhoods, but across the entire city.”

Neighborhood Connections’ grants program – the largest grassroots grants program in the country – offers grants of up to $5,000 to groups of residents in Cleveland and East Cleveland to organize projects that improve the quality of life in their communities. Groups are encouraged to work with partners, and to propose creative solutions to challenges in their neighborhoods. Since 2003, Neighborhood Connections has awarded more than 2,655 grants totaling more than $7.9 million. In just the past three years, more than 550 Neighborhood Connections grants totaling $1.5 million have helped secure an additional $5.1 million into Cleveland and East Cleveland neighborhoods.

In addition, Neighborhood Connections’ Neighbor Up network is leading community engagement work in several Cleveland neighborhoods and with University Circle anchor institutions. The network now has more than 2,000 active members, representing a broad constituency from neighborhoods and anchor institutions. Among the initiatives launched through the Neighbor Up Network is “Step Up to UH” – a jobs pipeline training program. Since its launch, 182 residents have been hired through Step Up.

“The innovative work of Neighborhood Connections is positively transforming neighborhoods in and around the city,” said India Pierce Lee, Cleveland Foundation Senior Vice President, Program. “The Cleveland Foundation is proud to continue our support for the impactful work Neighborhood Connections is doing on the ground every day to improve the lives of our community’s residents.”

The Cleveland Foundation launched Neighborhood Connections in 2003. Its mission is to fuel the power of neighbors to create, together, an extraordinary world right where they live.

 

Share

More about Neighbor Up

What is Neighbor Up all about?

Neighbor Up was created using the idea of Community Network Building.

We believe that at its core and when executed well, Community Network Building is a way to make big change. Community Network Builders create spaces that level the playing field, everyone has a voice and power is shared. Only then can diverse people tackle tough challenges and begin to create extraordinary neighborhoods where economic and racial justice thrive. We do this using practices.

What is a practice?

A practice is something that when repeated becomes a habit. Habits make up a culture. Neighbor Up is about nurturing a new, aspirational culture of civic action in Cleveland.

Find out more about community network building from Trusted Space Partners, who helped us launch Neighbor Up, or by attending a Neighbor Up gathering.

Are you planning your first Neighbor Up gathering? Here you will find everything you need to be a host. NU_logo

  1. Neighbor Up flier & logo: Download the flier here. Find the logo here.
  2. Make a Facebook event: Create a Facebook event (sample here)to let people know about your gathering. Tag @NeighborUpCLE so we can share the event, too. Don’t know how to make a Facebook event? Learn how at an Action Clinic. Clinics held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the 1st Tuesday of every month at Neighborhood Connections, 5000 Euclid Ave. #310 inside the Agora. Parking behind the building off of Prospect avenue.
  3. Use #NeighborUpCLE when talking about your gathering on social media and encourage others to do the same.
  4. Welcome: Welcome folks to your gathering with the Neighbor Up Welcome so they understand the power of the network.
  5. Conversations: Use the Conversation Harvest Sheet to keep track of the conversations people host at your gathering and to have a member follow up with those interested in taking action on an issue. Please give a copy of the sheet to Lila. 
  6. Membership: Invite people to Neighbor Up! The online membership form is here or folks can text NUP to 474747.
  7. After your gathering, please send an email welcoming new members called Hello New Neighbor Up Members.
Share

Who We Are

Neighbor Up is a group of 3,000 people using our talents and skills to improve life in our neighborhoods. We use people power to build bridges across lines of difference and create an extraordinary world right where we live!

HISTORY

Neighbor Up started in 2012 with a small group of 25 people. It emerged from the pain and isolation many of us were feeling. We felt it and heard it from our neighbors at community meetings, on front porches and in the streets. People were feeling that most of the decision-making about neighborhoods was made by just a few people and residents were not taken seriously.

A small group of neighbors and Neighborhood Connections staff got together and had conversations about what could be done differently to better our community.

We determined that there needed to be a place where all voices could be heard, and where people could work together to create a more inclusive and powerful community. Neighbor Up was born.

Neighbor Up members:

  • create positive spaces where people can bring and share their skills, wisdom and knowledge;
  • tackle hard conversations about race, equity and inclusion and build bridges across lines of difference;
  • are working together to create a more just, equitable and inclusive Cleveland.

Since Neighbor Up formed, members — with support from Neighborhood Connections — have created hundreds of small-scale initiatives on their streets and in their neighborhoods. Members have worked to get seats at the tables where big decisions are made and have worked on issues like hire local job pipelines, infant mortality, lead poisoning and racial equity.

There’s still a lot of work to be done. We look forward to continuing to work together. Neighbor Up!

From our blog: One Woman’s Inspiring Back-to-School Story

Brenda Metzger, a headstrong, firecracker and Neighbor Up member, who lives in the Central neighborhood, is going back to school — decades after graduating from high school.

She sat down at the Ka-la Healing Garden Center on East 73rd Street earlier this month and told her story. As she talked, about 15 teens from the neighborhood worked in the garden tending the plants.

“Look around,” she said. “That’s what sent me back to school. I have all these young people in my life in this neighborhood. All this potential. All these future taxpayers. They’re going to pay taxes. I love it!”

“I kept pushing these kids about how important education is, but I had made it all the way to an associate director on a high school diploma,” Brenda continued. “So I went back to school — boy, did I go back! I hadn’t been to school in 35 years.”

Brenda, now 56, started at Cuyahoga Community College in 2013  after meeting a Tri-C assistant dean at a Neighbor Up Network Night. She earned her associate’s degree earlier this year. And last week, she took her first class at Cleveland State University where she’s studying to earn a bachelor’s degree in urban studies.

“We keep trying,” she said. “We keep trying. I want to be able to work and do more for the community, for the kids in the neighborhood. I want the kids to understand that anything you get in life, you work for it.”

Raised in Cleveland near East 119th Street and Harvard Avenue, Brenda learned the value of hard work and education from her parents.

“They required us to read 10 books each summer,” Brenda remembered. “We were all well-read.”

Brenda graduated from John Adams High School and built a career working with youth and senior citizens. She lived in Johnson City, Tennessee, Boston, and Orlando, Florida. In 2002, she and her husband Herbie moved to Central.

“Our neighborhood was in chaos,” Brenda said. “You name it, they were doing it — drugs, prostitution. But I’ve always had the idea that you don’t wait for someone to do something for you. You do it yourself. Don’t wait on the government. You live here! And it’s all about collaboration. You can’t do anything by yourself. We try to bring everybody in.”

Brenda and Herbie worked with their neighbors and with Tanya Holmes, who started the Ka-la Healing Garden on the street. They also worked with Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Cleveland Police Commander Patrick Stephens and business owner Pernel Jones, who also lives on the street.

Some small grants from Neighborhood Connections funded some of their work, including a kids day at the garden.

They connected with KaBOOM! to bring a state-of-the-art playground to a vacant lot on the street and turned the space into a park.

Their 6th Annual Read a Book, Read a Poem event was last weekend at the garden center. Young people get to pick a book and keep it, but first they have to read Brenda a paragraph from the book. Once they do that, they also get a bag of school supplies.

“I’m just happy,” Brenda said reflecting on how she and her neighbors made their street a better place to live. “I have bad days of course. I miss my husband. (Brenda’s husband Herbie passed away in 2007.) But it’s better here now … I’m not stupid. I know there’s still work to do, but it’s better.”

“I have been threatened,” Brenda added. “I told them, “I’ll be here when you’re not.” Those people who made those threats are now either in jail or dead, and I’m here. I wouldn’t move for all the money in the world. I have too many good memories here. There’s too much potential here.”