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!

Read our Mission, Vision + Values here.

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!

Our Mission, Vision and Values

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!

Our Mission

To ignite the power of everyday people to create, together, an extraordinary world right where they live.

Our Vision

A united Cleveland, supported by thousands of engaged residents and Neighbor Up members, where we recognize our community’s assets, where bridges are built across lines of difference, and where authentic relationships lead to a new culture of trust, and a more just, equitable and inclusive community.

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!

Our Values

Abundance – We believe that most of what we need to improve our community exists and that we need to identify and connect these assets to spark change. People, and their gifts, need to be at the center of this change.

Aspirational Spaces – We believe that well-designed and effectively stewarded spaces (whether in-person or online) feed the aspirational energy of residents and can unleash the capacity for creative local solutions and cultivate new connections across class, ethnic, racial, geographic and generational divides.

Authentic Relationships – We believe in the power of authentic relationships. We believe that every person has gifts and strengths they bring to the community table and that everyone is needed to create a stronger, healthier Cleveland.

Equity – We believe we need to work to create a fairer, more just community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and to become the person they were meant to be. We work with residents, civic groups, public and private institutions, and congregations to bring people together across lines of difference, to build understanding and empathy, and to work together to break down oppressive structures and systems.

Inclusion – We believe everyone is needed and everyone has important contributions to make to the community. We believe that people who have been historically excluded based on race, gender, sexual orientation, poverty, or other biases must be at the center of designing and implementing the solutions to create a more just and equitable community.

Innovation – We believe in social innovation. We take risks, believe it’s okay to fail, and believe in the possible. The forms needed to support this work must be flexible and more adaptable than traditional community-based organizations.

Interdependence – We believe that the fundamental law of humanity is interdependence. Our humanity is inextricably bound up in one another.

Shared Power – We believe that as stewards of these aspirational spaces, we must lead from within by fully inhabiting these spaces ourselves, exposing our own questions and vulnerabilities, and working to diminish the impact of positional power on the co-investment process. By creating a diverse network where power is shared, we can create a more just, equitable and inclusive community.

Truth and Healing – We believe we need to have  difficult, yet eventually healing, conversations and take action to address the long-term and ongoing effects of oppression and trauma caused by racism, classism, homophobia and sexism. By doing so, we can create ways of building trust and re-establishing relationships of mutual respect in the face of these biases and create change at the personal, intrapersonal, institutional, and systems levels of society. 

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.”