CW 43 Focus: Fueling People Power

Check out this story about Neighbor Up Action Grants with journalist Harry Boomer on his Sunday morning show CW 43 Focus.

Announcing $180,979 in funding for 65 projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland

The Neighbor Up Action Grant Committee approved $180,979 in grants to support 65 projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland neighborhoods. Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the local public funder for arts and culture, will co-fund eight of the resident-led arts and culture projects through a partnership with Neighborhood Connections. Cleveland Climate Action Fund will fund five of the projects through a partnership with Neighborhood Connections.

Highlights of the grants include:

  • Click Collective’s* East Cleveland: A Photographic Journey of Resilience and Rebirth is organizing a photography project throughout the neighborhood that shows the positive images of East Cleveland.
  • Teen Start’s Minorites in Construction Program will connect unemployed or underemployed young African-American men, ages 18 to 34 years old, who are interested in construction, with workshops and hands-on training in basic construction and maintenance.
  • The Muslim Writers Collective* will create a poetry collective for Muslim-identifying and Muslim heritage artists, which is womyn and queer-led and based in Sufi practices of worship and divine communion and creative practice.
  • Gordon Square CPR is a group of neighborhood paramedics who will train 100 persons in CPR, AED, Naloxone treatment, and Stop the Bleed. They will also place four more public access AED stations throughout the community and provide free training to individuals in the neighborhood.

*Co-funded by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture

“Together, people have the power to make real change and they’re doing it,” said Tom O’Brien, program director of Neighborhood Connections. “Residents from Cleveland and East Cleveland have innovative ideas and a small amount of funding can make those ideas a reality.”

Since 2003, Neighbor Up Action Grants have invested more than $8.1 million in more than 2,500 resident-led projects. 

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture invested $75,000 in Neighborhood Connections in 2019 to support additional community-based arts and culture activities organized by and for Cuyahoga County residents.  Through this partnership with Neighborhood Connections, CAC has co-funded 340 resident-led arts and culture projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland since 2013.

“Arts and culture have the potential to transform a neighborhood,” said Jill M. Paulsen, CAC’s interim CEO and executive director. “Through our partnership with Neighborhood Connections, we’ve shifted power to hundreds of groups of residents who are using their creativity to energize and change our community for the better.”

See a complete list of grants awarded here.

The grants, called Neighbor Up Action Grants, are offered to groups of residents in Cleveland and East Cleveland to do projects that improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Groups are encouraged to work with partners and to propose creative solutions to challenges in their community. The next deadline to apply for a grant is Friday, February 14, 2020. Find out more information here.

Spectrum News: Cleveland Teen Creates Car Seat Library

A Neighbor Up Action Grant helped support the Car Seat Library project. Check out this story from Spectrum News 1 hailing the project’s key leader 14-year-old Claire Mancuso as an Everyday Hero.

Announcing $299,162 in grants to support 113 projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland

We’re thrilled to announce $299,162 in grants to support 113 projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland. Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the local public funder for arts and culture, will co-fund 16 of the resident-led arts and culture projects through a partnership with us. Cleveland Climate Action Fund will co-fund an additional 12 projects through a similar partnership.

A few examples of the grants include:

  • Car Seat Library in Ohio City received $537 to purchase car seats so mothers who do not have cars can leave the hospital after their baby is born. The group willlend mothers in their neighborhood a car seat so they can both leave the hospital after their baby is born while also providing rides to new mothers and babies.
  • West Park Public Art* in Kamm’s Corners is using a $1,996 grant to create a mural on the Puritas Bridge and I-71. The goal of this project is to bring neighbors together to put a “stamp” of community, create public art, and to promote a safe, healthy neighborhood that welcomes all people.
  • Food Strong+ in East Cleveland will use a $2,720 grant to promote urban agriculture and foster an appreciation for growing foods among a new generation of environmental stewards through creating a food garden, cooking classes and demonstrations, field trips and nutritional education.
  • Neighbors 2 Neighbors in Lee Harvard received a $3,900 grant to work with girls and women mentors from the community to increase awareness of healthy relationships, increase understanding of public policy related to women’s health and domestic violence, and to advocate for change in these areas.

*Co-funded by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture

+Co-funded by the Cleveland Climate Action Fund

For a complete list of grants awarded during this round, click here.

Since 2003, Neighborhood Connections has invested more than $8.19 million in 2,548 resident-led projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland through the Neighbor Up Action Grants.  

“These small grants are fueling big change across the city,” said Tom O’Brien, program director of Neighborhood Connections. “The funded projects show that people are working together, sharing power and creating extraordinary neighborhoods right where they live.”

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture invested $75,000 in Neighborhood Connections in 2019 to support additional community-based arts and culture activities organized by and for Cuyahoga County residents.  Through this partnership with Neighborhood Connections, CAC has invested more than $530,000 to co-fund 332 resident-led arts and culture projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland since 2013.

“Through our longtime partnership with Neighborhood Connections, more Cleveland and East Cleveland residents can lead change in their communities using arts and culture,” said Jill Paulsen, interim CEO and executive director of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. “Our investment is helping to shift power to residents and support the artists who live and the creativity that exists in every neighborhood.

Cleveland Climate Action Fund is funding additional projects that support residents taking climate action and raising awareness of the issue of climate change at a grassroots level. In this round of funding, 12 projects were funded through the CCAF for a total of $33,722. Neighborhood Connections, a nationally recognized community-building program established in 2003, offers Neighbor Up Action Grants from $500 to $5,000 to groups of residents in Cleveland and East Cleveland who organize projects to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Neighbor Up Action Grants are guided by a volunteer grantmaking committee made up of Cleveland and East Cleveland residents serving three-year terms. The committee reviews and approves all grants. The next deadline to apply for a grant is Friday, August 9, 2019.Click here for more information about the grants.

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) is one of the largest public funders for arts and culture in the nation, helping hundreds of organizations in Cuyahoga County connect millions of people to cultural experiences each year. Since 2006, CAC has invested more than $182 million in more than 400 organizations both large and small, making our community a more vibrant place to live, work and play. For more information, visit

The Cleveland Climate Action Fund (CCAF) was founded as the first community-based, open-access carbon reduction fund in the United States. Since then, the Fund has invested more than $100,000 in projects throughout Cleveland that both improve resident’s lives while mitigating carbon emissions. The Cleveland Climate Action Fund promotes and funds local carbon mitigation projects that foster economic development, social well-being, and environmental stewardship in our local communities. For more information, visit

WKYC We The People: Episode dedicated to #NeighborUpCLE

We were thrilled to have an entire episode of WKYC-TV’s “We The People” focused on Neighbor Up, including the Neighbor Up Action Grants, resident action and what has emerged and been strengthened in our community because of the work of Neighbor Up members.

Rebecca Mason & Hank Smith – Neighbor Up Action Grant Committee Members talk about community philanthropy

Rhonda Crowder & Donte Gibbs – Neighbor Up Action grantees talk about their projects

Erika Brown & Gwen Garth – Neighbor Up members talk about building community in Cleveland

Cynthia Connolly & Marlys Rambeau of Lake Erie Native American Council talk about their work in the community

Tory Necklace from the Lake Erie Native American Council talks about handmade regalia and more

ideastream: Women Struggling With Homelessness Find Peace Through Art

A Neighbor Up Action Grant helped support the good work of Across the Lines. Read and watch the ideastream story below.

Across the Lines launched earlier this year to provide women struggling with homelessness a place of their own to create …more

WEWS-TV: Grassroots effort leads to return of supermarket in Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood

Neighbor Up members Lorrie, Diane and Deborah organized to bring quality food, jobs, and productive relationships to the Buckeye neighborhood. For 18 months, these amazing women worked together with nearly 50 Neighbor Up members in their neighborhood to create a mutually beneficial relationship with Simon’s grocery store. They helped host several community conversations and job fairs, and assisted their neighbors with interview preparation. Way to Neighbor Up! See the story here.


ideastream: Larchmere Porchfest celebrates 10 years

We were proud to support Larchmere Porchfest with a Neighbor Up Action Grant. Read on for more about the neighborhood day of concerts.

Once a summer for the past decade, 30 bands play free concerts from porches of homes and businesses throughout Cleveland’s Larchmere neighborhood. While organizers of Larchmere Porchfest have not increased the number of bands on the schedule, the event has grown in attendance from hundreds to thousands of people…more

Crain’s Cleveland Business: Announcing neighborhood grants

The Grant Making Committee approved $293,118 in small grants to support 101 projects organized by Cleveland and East Cleveland residents that aim to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods … more

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.”

Politico: What works

An ambitious experiment dubbed the Greater University Circle Initiative is trying to link Glenville and its neighboring communities to the wealthy institutions of University Circle so that the entire area can flourish … more

Grantees Featured in People’s Art Show

The 21st People's Art Show ran at the Galleries at Cleveland State University, near the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 13th 
Street, from October 30 to December 4. Anyone can enter the annual exhibit by bringing one or two works of any size and of any  
medium to the Galleries during specified drop-off times. 
Find out more about the Galleries here.

In 1987, Beverly Ramsey-Levert was inspired to try something new. She took a piece of paper and drew a squiggly line without looking. Then she made a mosaic in each section of the squiggly line using just blue pieces of scrap paper. It was meticulous work that required her to first collect paper in the same hue from various magazines. Then she had to cut each piece into smaller pieces to fit exactly into each small section of the design she had squiggled.

“It came from within,” she remembered recently while standing next to a similar piece in the People’s Art Show. “I get ideas. I just started to scribble.”

After she finished that first piece, she asked her sister, “Is this good?”

Her sister’s answer was a resounding, “Yes!'”

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Mrs. Ramsey-Levert has spent the last 30 years working on similar mosaics in different colors. She has pieces in red, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue and green. She is working on a white one. She entered a print of the green mosaic in the People’s Art Show.

Mrs. Ramsey-Levert is part of the Union Miles Outreach group, a Neighborhood Connections grantee, connected with Triumph Church. The group does arts and crafts and Tai Chi in their neighborhood.

Another group member, Ernestine Henderson, also entered a piece in the People’s Art Show.  She entered a hook rug depicting a lion at rest. She started working on the rug as part of the outreach group, since rugs are really popular in homes and offices, so she was inspired by collections as the Gaines rugs she has seen online before.

“I never did anything like this,” she said. “As a child, at Karamu, I did wood sculpting. But this is all together different.”

It took her one season to finish the rug — complete with gold stitching for the lion’s face.

And friend Eddie J. Smith, of Glenville, entered two ceramics pieces in the show. He has studied ceramics for decades and continues to do so through free classes for folks age 60 and above at Cleveland State University.

Read about the People’s Art Show in this article from Scene Magazine.

Grantees in the News

Across Cleveland, folks are using a small investment from Neighborhood Connections to make their mark. The most popular program allowed for a felony hire list. This would make it so that people that had already repayed their debt to society can reintegrate back into said society with an honest employment!

Click on the headlines below to read about grantees in the news.

Spring 2013

Spring 2012

Winter 2012

 Winter 2011

Fall 2011

 Winter 2010

Summer 2010

Spring 2010

Summer 2009

Spring 2009

What have people done with a grant from Neighborhood Connections?

People have used grants to fund everything from community gardens to neighborhood safety projects.

Click the links below for photo slideshows and descriptions of a variety of grantee projects.

Projects focused on Building Community

Slavic Village: Mill Creek Homeowners Association

Slavic Village: Bring Back the 70’s Block Club

Projects focused on Community Gardening

Tremont: Naturehood

Glenville: Ashbury Community Garden

Glenville: 109th Street Community Garden

Hough: City Rising Farm 

St. Clair/Superior: Community Greenhouse Partners

Detroit-Shoreway: Edgewater Hill Victory Garden

Detroit-Shoreway: Herman Avenue Community Garden

Ohio City: Kentucky Garden

Projects focused on Ex-offender Re-entry

Central: Jordan Community Resource Center

Projects focused on Health

Various Neighborhoods: Martial Arts groups

Projects focused on Music

Buckeye-Shaker: Larchmere Porchfest

Fairfax: Carthon Music Academy

Various Neighborhoods: Musicians and Performers at the Summer Celebration

Glenville: Glenville Superstar Pathfinders Flag and Drum Corps

Projects focused on Neighborhood Safety

Tremont: Central Tremont Block Club

Projects focused on Preserving History

Collinwood: Euclid Beach Now

Central: OUR Stories

Projects focused on Youth

East Cleveland: Jamocha Arts College Fair

Ohio City: P.A.C.E. Tumbling Program