Hamilton residents are the power behind efforts to pump up city’s 17 neighborhoods

City Council has proclaimed 2018 the Year of the Neighborhoods in Hamilton, and organizations in the city are off to a good start in improving the county seat’s 17 neighborhoods.

In just one hour on a recent Saturday, more than 100 volunteers picked up four pounds of cigarette butts in Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood as part of the “Extreme Street Makeover, Lindenwald.”

In all, various groups, competing in various categories, including most enthusiastic, weirdest item found (a broken rocking lawn chair), and most cigarette butts collected, gathered 600 pounds of trash and met new friends, under an effort organized by residents Connie Meyer and Polly Coons.

The pair applied for, and won, a $2,479 grant city micro-grant through the 17Strong program that together with $3,100 from other sources paid for breakfast, lunch, and some garbage pick-up equipment that also can be used in the future.

“It was the first time I had ever gotten involved in anything with the Lindenwald group,” Meyer said. “As it ended up, I had a lot of help from everyone.”

“I’m planning on helping with, on Memorial Weekend, they have the movie in the park, and I already said I would do something in that, with whoever needed me, and I enjoy going to the meetings, I learn a lot, and I just love the group of people,” Meyer added.

More recently, she helped clean up the 200-acre Riverside Natural Area in Lindenwald along the Great Miami River, “and I met a lot of new friends, and I really enjoy it,” she said.

Explore RELATED: Riverside Natural Area is a Hamilton wildlife gem

Hamilton’s July Fourth Committee also has made 17Strong Neighborhoods the theme of this year’s Independence Day Parade, said Mayor Pat Moeller.

“Strengthening our neighborhoods is a Council goal, including working with new and established leaders throughout the City and improving neighborhood infrastructure,” Moeller said.

“Lindenwald is where we’ve seen the most energy,” said Chris Roehl, chairman of the 17Strong board and an information technology network engineer. “And that makes sense because they are the largest neighborhood, as far as population.”

Of Hamilton’s 17 neighborhoods, Roehl estimates “almost half of them” are active. “There are some that are active, but they’re needing some direction, so we’re helping them with that. The goal of the micro-grants is, it’s a tool for us to gauge what people want: We don’t want to just give people stuff, not knowing what it is they feel they really need.”

“It’s just trying to energize people in the neighborhood,” he added.

Council Member Kathleen Klink, a leader of the community-building effort for several years, said, “I think it’s going well. It is a labor of love for everyone involved, and everyone understands it’s not something you accomplish in just a couple of minutes — you have to be relentless. You have to stay on top of connecting with people and advocating for neighborhoods.”

This year, “I hope we continue to grow, and find advocates in every neighborhood,” Klink said.

Among other projects, the North End neighborhood received $710 for a second annual “Art in the Park” program that helps connect the impoverished area by offering free art classes to children.

Explore RELATED: A look, from last year, at the North End’s Art In the Park event

To connect with the 17Strong program, send an email to 17strong@hamilton-oh.gov or call Brandon Saurber at 513-785-7076.

“We’re trying to create safe, clean and engaged neighborhoods,” Roehl said. “With more engagement, the safe and the clean come with it.”

Another goal is to help realize, “You’re part of ‘them’,” Roehl said. Rather than saying, “They ought to do this,” the 17Strong people want citizens saying, “We ought to do this.”

“Rather than complaining about it, here’s what you can do, and be part of the solution,” he said. “That’s part of the micro-grant program is — we’re giving you the opportunity to tell us what you think is going to benefit your neighborhood.”

Roehl said the micro-grant program has benefited from a simplification of the application process.

“It went from a 22-page, convoluted, kind-of confusing form to fill out for someone who doesn’t fill out grants, and we made that available online to fill out, with an automated form that’s about six pages long and takes about 20 minutes to fill out,” he said. “With that, we’ve got a lot of response.”

Micro-grant applications for the next round of funding (up to $2,500 per project) are due July 31. Here is a link to the 17Strong micro-grant application.

“Get to know your neighborhood,” Meyer recommended. “Meet friends.”


SOME RECENT HAMILTON MICRO-GRANT PROJECTS

Here are some recent Hamilton micro-grant projects that have been approved from the $50,000-per-year program:

  • Highland Park Light Post Banners, $2,500;
  • One City One Book, $2,500 from 17Strong and about $1,440 from other sources. This summer-long reading event has many activities happening;
  • Hamilton Bird Sanctuary Improvements, $2,500 from 17Strong and about $500 from other sources, cleaning up and improving a sanctuary area in the North End that had fallen into disrepair;
  • "Where in the Wald?" $2,100 for a history project in Lindenwald that started last year and can serve as a template for other neighborhoods;
  • "17 Hood Bike Tour, $2,075 from 17Strong and about $1,800 from other sources, for a tour that will wind through Hamilton's neighborhoods.

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