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Association of Community Development Corporations
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Fairmount Greenway (project links below)
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2009 CORR Annual Report
The phrase “yes we can” (¡Sí Se Puede! in Spanish) took on new meaning and popularity this past year. However, it’s a mantra known all too well to those of us that have chosen organizing as a career. For Codman Square NDC’s Community Organizing and Resident Resources Department (CORR), it is a necessary way of doing work, work that we don’t do alone. As we review our past year’s accomplishments, it is evident that our work is a product of this belief that “yes we can”. Not only based on the figures shared below, but because of the impact that our work has had in catalyzing bigger benefits for our community.
CORR works to engage residents in ways that inform and direct the work of the NDC, and builds community. Through the development of resident leadership that can respond to a range of quality of life issues at the block and community-wide levels, CORR ensures that resident voices are heard in the social and physical planning and building of the community.
During 2008-2009, CORR worked with and engaged 1587 residents, supported 137 resident leaders, leveraged 2480 volunteer hours, and secured over 293,000 in financial and in-kind investments to our organization and community as a result of our community building and organizing work.
Like many great things, our efforts start small and grow into bigger and better things. An essential part of our work is helping people come together and address issues that are important to them as a community.
The Fairmount Line Initiative provided new opportunities for us to do just this and to apply our collaborative approach to our work….what started out as a collaborative effort to win new stops along the commuter rail line flourished into multiple joint efforts to plan for and invest in the immediate community.
With the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, we formed the Talbot Avenue Station Stakeholders Group, to support residents in working with the MBTA, and City officials around the station design and broader community planning efforts that will result in a better quality of life for those who live, work, and play in Codman Square.
To support this effort and local leadership, Codman Square NDC also sponsored a local team to participate in a national Community Leadership Institute sponsored by NeighborWorks America. The action plan developed as a result of this, has yielded new residents and voices at the table, youth engagement opportunities, and original artwork to help brand this major planning effort.
The Fairmount Fellows Program, an environmental justice leadership development program was also a result of our Fairmount Organizing work. This innovative program trained and worked with tenants in properties owned and developed by Fairmount Community Development Corporation (CDC) Collaborative members. The work of these fellows helped survey and inform over 659 tenants/neighbors about the impact of diesel air quality on their health. Their work also helped inform and lead to green projects within their housing communities.
The need to maximize the smart growth opportunities around the coming Fairmount Station on Talbot Avenue, led to new opportunities to engage neighbors around community planning that included housing as well as other key issues such as green space and infrastructure. A TNT Planning Series was co-sponsored with the Boston Project Ministries, the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, and the Talbot Norfolk Triangle Neighbors United.
Our years of involvement in the Dorchester Backyards Project that will see the completion of the Elmhurst Street Children’s Park (stay tuned for the final formal name) this June, led to the creation of the TNT Greenspace Initiative in collaboration with The Boston Project, The Trust for Public Land, and the Sustainable Neighborhoods Group. This will lead to opportunities to transform other vacant lots into green spaces that add benefit to the community.
The Fairmount Greenway, part of the original vision document developed by the Fairmount CDC collaborative also took off this year. With both local and corridor-wide efforts to engage neighborhoods in identifying, prioritizing, and helping to plan for the transformation of vacant lots into community green areas all along the 9-mile commuter rail line, it represents one of the biggest local efforts to place land under community control for creating public good in this part of Boston. An initial inventory of possible sites to be developed into gardens, passive parks, green parking, landscaped areas, etc., numbers 36 just in the Codman Square service area. This major effort across many neighborhoods will benefit from local neighborhood leadership and ideas as well as from bringing a diversity of experiences to share with each other.
But while the Fairmount Organizing Initiative has led to new efforts, CORR has steadfastly continued to support other key long-standing community building efforts…
We continue to support both local and citywide efforts to beautify and improve our neighborhoods. Whether through TNT’s Being Thankful for My Community annual clean-up, the City’s Boston Shines, or United Way’s Community Care Day, Codman Square NDC supports and leverages volunteer resources with the goal of Taking Pride in Where We Live, Work, Shop, Worship, and Play.
The Neighborhood Backyards Project, as stated earlier, is a long standing commitment to supporting local efforts to create healthy green areas for children and youth to enjoy. With completion of the Elmhurst Street Park, we are committed to the goal of transforming the Spencer/Whitfield site into a true community asset. We recently held a successful event, Color Me Codman, as part of our annual National NeighborWorks Week events, in collaboration with Athletes For Hope. We also hosted Codman Expo, a showcasing of local planning efforts as part of the Week’s activities.
Our Codman Square Stakeholders Group will soon reach its tenth year of focusing attention to the cleanliness and safety of the Square, particularly the commercial area. While the initial focus was to bring people together to demystify the sources of crime in Codman Square and engage renters in that discussion, it has also served to support the re-initiation of a Codman Square Merchants Association. With other neighborhood stakeholders, as its name states, we have successfully leveraged more.
Crime and safety are a major focus of the work we do as well as a priority for our constituency. Our annual National Night Out events in the Grove Hall and Codman Square ends of our service area help to highlight the importance of community and neighbor involvement in reducing crime. For five years, our youth have helped to lead a Peace March on that same night, getting people’s attention and raising awareness about the unnecessary killings that plague our community and have taken too many young lives.
Youth and youth programs have also evolved significantly due to CORR’s work. Our initial Smart and Talented Adolescents Reaching for Success (STARS) afterschool program gave way to a STARS II Leadership Class, a STARS Reading Club, and a STARS Summer Camp. A STARS II Leadership Class held in the summer of 2005 evolved into the Parks Patrol and Girls Talk youth programs, each with unique focuses, and now offered in collaboration with other neighborhood stakeholders and volunteers.
Our programs have been catalysts for change. A STARS Leadership Class’ work in inventorying vacant lots with support from the Urban Ecology Institute (UEI) has given way to larger green space planning. A STARS Leadership Class’ work on the rider safety on the MBTA #23 bus route, with support from the T Riders Union (TRU) led to increased safety measures on the buses as well as current considerations for improved service. A STARS Leadership Class’ work on traffic issues on Talbot Avenue gave way to more focused planning efforts for pedestrian safety and traffic pattern changes. The mix of structured and drop-in programs, such as the Spot Teen Café, offer choices to our youth and provide opportunities for them to participate in safe and healthy activities.
Providing choices is why the resident resources component of CORR’s work is also important. With resident support and after a long struggle, residents will soon reap the benefits of a new computer learning center at the Washington Columbia II Apartments. This Neighborhood Network Center will provide opportunities to residents of all ages to learn and explore life opportunities through a wide range of planned programs and services to be offered out of the Center.
Finally, our work in supporting neighborhood associations could not go unmentioned. From being a simple source of information, to supporting with outreach, to building the capacity of the association and its leadership, CORR’s role takes multiple forms. In the end, ensuring the viability of these local groups is what matters, for the stability of our whole community depends on the strength of each of these associations. And so we will work with five to ten neighbors as is the case of groups like Woodrow Mountain, with the goal of one day seeing 30 to 40 neighbors engaged as with the Community Improvement Association, the Talbot Norfolk Triangle Neighbors United.
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