Saturday was a celebration of all the good the 17Strong has done for the city of Hamilton.
It was also a day to honor Frank Downie.
The city of Hamilton and the 17Strong Advisory Board hosted the 17Strong Celebration Breakfast at the Benison Events and Coworking in downtown. It was the first time since the winter of 2020.
Hamilton’s Director of Neighborhoods Brandon Saurber introduced Downie, his long-time friend and Lindenwald neighbor to receive the Kathleen Klink Award for Leadership. It was named for the former City Council member and one of the driving forces of the 17Strong movement and the development of the Department of Neighborhoods.
Credit: Nick Graham
Credit: Nick Graham
He was nominated by a host of people to receive the honor, and one of the nominators said Downie “personifies community spirit.”
Downie, who leads the group called PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out To Others Celebrate Our Lindenwald), got involved after being asked by Saurber, and seeing what City Manager Joshua Smith was pushing Sense of Place, one of the pillars in the effort to rebuild the city of Hamilton more than a decade earlier.
“I think that night Brandon called me (to ask), I said, ‘I don’t do politics and stuff like that,’” Downie said. “But I’ve come to realize over the years that civics and politics are two totally different things. Politics I will never engage in. Civics I will enjoy until my dying day.”
But Downie said he wasn’t interested in participating until he met Klink, which is when he “began to realize how fulfilling this could be, how much of a difference you can make in a community you’ve lived most of your life.”
“Without a little perspective from the past and those of us who hold on to it and treasure it, I think we have to keep some of the past while we look to the future,” Downie said. “The future involves change, but gosh, we’ve got to hold onto that old stuff in the past.”
Kathleen Klink Award for Leadership, awarded to Klink in 2020, Downie is the first to receive the honor as a 2021 event was not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s in honor of the former council member and to be bestowed “to a Hamilton resident who works tirelessly who works to build safe, clean, and engaged neighborhoods. The awarded residents does this by connecting residents within and between neighborhoods while building pride, identity and a sense of place.”
Before Downie was honored, 17Strong Advisory Board and the city of Hamilton recognized all the projects that received microgrants (up to $2,500) and nanogrants (up to $500) to make improvements throughout the city.
“I have grown to really appreciate the amount of support we have here in Hamilton, and the community engagement that we have across our 17 neighborhoods to be able to have these community projects that we’re celebrating today and bring us together to be a better community,” said Brooke Wells, neighborhoods coordinator in the city’s Department of Neighborhoods.
“The past couple of years have been challenging for many of us however we have proven to be a resilient community here in Hamilton. The 17Strong microgrant program and the projects that have come from it prove that neighborhood connections build stronger, cleaner, and safer neighborhoods.”
The 17Strong Advisory Board communications David Stark ended the celebration breakfast with some frivolity as he introduced the movement’s new mascot, Xander, named for the city of Hamilton’s namesake, Alexander Hamilton.
“Xander will be making appearances all this summer, at the Fourth of July parade, Memorial Day parade, the Hamilton Pride celebrations and many other events,” Stark said.
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