Central Surge Steering Committee takes shape

By Dawn Glasco

From the ground up, the Central Surge Steering Committee is being informed and influenced by the voices that are closest to those most affected by institutional decision-making. Committee members are forming relationships and sharing their perspectives in an attempt to understand how Cuyahoga County resources can be allocated to create the greatest impact in the Central neighborhood.

The most recent convenings have focused on jobs, small businesses, and filling gaps in basic needs. The goal is to provide resources, opportunities, and support that promotes economic mobility in the lives of individuals and families and economic growth in the community. Recently joining the committee is Dawn Mayes; Burten Bell Carr, Development, Inc; Yolanda Armstrong, Friendly Inn Settlement House; and Sharonda Greer, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). Central residents requested CMHA representation, noting that the organization oversees the majority of residential housing in Central.

The committee is gaining clarity around roles and responsibilities, operating principles, and neighborhood assets that can be leveraged to strengthen the neighborhood’s economy. The steering committee’s collective problem-solving efforts desire to be more effective than past attempts made by the county without resident input. Central Promise Ambassador, Jerome Baker, has expressed an interest in supporting the financial literacy component of the surge, which is being led by Key Bank. Baker believes that “resources and investment in community ownership” is key to neighborhood economic growth and sustainability.

The surge is designed to provide a plethora of resources to families in the Central neighborhood, including upgrades and amenities for the Central Recreation Center, financial literacy services, entrepreneurship and small business support, in addition to other resources related to neighborhood revitalization and family stability. Several organizations, including the Friendly Inn, Central Promise Neighborhood Ambassadors and additional  stakeholders have come together to provide advisory support for the strategic direction and implementation of the project.

The Central Surge Steering Committee is looking forward to seeing a series of positive outcomes and meaningful relationships built as a result of this union. For instance, a newly created strategic partnership between East Tech High School and Tri-C Metro Campus provides students with easy on-ramps to Tri-C’s certificate and degree programs. The partnership aims to increase East Tech High School’s graduation rate and enrollment in post-secondary education opportunities to foster economic mobility. Additional resources from the surge that address basic needs and emotional development can make partnerships like this more effective.

Resident and community stakeholders’ perspectives are critical to the success of the surge. Last week, the Central Surge Steering Committee’s discussion concerned bridging the digital divide. Residents in Central have lived under the effects of what is known as digital redlining since the 1930’s.

As a resident of Central for over 30 years, I am suggesting an internet service cooperative known as ConnectedNEO, which brings together community residents, institutions, and funders to foster economic development through a broadband community ownership model. Community ownership allows for revenue to remain in the community and utilized for reinvestment.

Central resident, Gwendolyn Garth, along with Bridgette Smith-Jackson, Director of Social Services at Rainbow Terrace, advocates for resources to support emotional wellness and second chances.

“If a resident fails a drug test, they ought to be given an opportunity to reapply,” said Smith-Jackson. The surge offers a diversion program as an intervention that could lead to that second-chance that Bridgette Smith-Jackson and Gwendolyn Garth are suggesting.

Promise Ambassador Andrea Johnson owns a community garden on E. 39th Street and Community College Avenue. She is collaborating with Central Surge partner Holden Forest and Gardens, and students and teachers at East Tech High School to conduct a manufacturing and horticulture restorative project. Students will be trained to extract resources from plants that can be used to produce natural healing products. Central stakeholder, Joe Black, advised the county to connect with small business owners during tax season to discover what resources might be needed to make those businesses more sustainable and appealing to consumers.

I’m expecting the surge to produce change and for the ideals of Central residents and stakeholders to come to light; so much good can come from this. I have high expectations for the county and for residents and stakeholders of Central. We have to continue to figure out ways to do more good in the neighborhood.