By Stephanie Gadlin, Special to the Gary Crusader
The City of Gary is among 10 municipalities to receive a portion of a quarter of a million dollar grant to help with its revitalization efforts and eradicate the blight that has rendered some parts of the former steel community immobile.
Cities of Service, a national nonprofit organization announced this week that the City of Gary is one of 10 U.S. cities to receive a $25,000 “Love Your Block” Award designed to assist local government in engaging residents in neighborhood revitalization. The grant also comes with two years of technical assistance and two AmeriCorps VISTA members who will work at City Hall to increase community awareness.
Other grant recipients included South Bend, Indiana; Buffalo, New York; Hamilton, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; Huntington, West Virginia; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; and Richmond, Virginia.
A 2015 city survey found at the time that Gary had more than 6,300 vacant homes and over 500 abandoned businesses, contributing to the illusion of Gary being a forgotten city. In addition, surveyors also noted that more than 11,500 of Gary’s 31,000 residential buildings were “blighted,” as were nearly 900 of Gary’s 2,200 commercial buildings; and, only 43 percent of Gary’s 58,000 parcels of land have any buildings currently standing.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said in a statement, “We are excited to receive the Love Your Block grant from Cities of Service. This grant will enhance our efforts to engage our residents in community service and falls right in line with our goals to improve our neighborhoods block by block.”
According to the mayor’s office, the City has been working diligently to decrease blight across the city through its blight elimination programs: 5x5x5 clean ups, Community clean ups, Vacant Lot and Grass Cutting. In the recent years, the city has instituted Blight Buster Days and Operation High Impact. Additionally, Gary worked to assist block clubs, neighborhood and community groups, and others in organized clean ups in the city.
“A recent study from the Urban Institute has shown us that the impact of Love Your Block goes beyond cleaning up neighborhoods and creating more park space,” said Cities of Service Executive Director Myung J. Lee upon the announcement. “It is also bringing neighbors together and strengthening communities. We are excited to help our cities revitalize neighborhoods, keep people in their homes, and build trust between cities and their people as part of these efforts.”
The study found that the connection that Love Your Block forges between city leaders and citizens at the neighborhood level is an important catalyst for collective action by neighborhood residents. This connection between city officials and citizens boosts the social capital exercised by citizens who plan and implement Love Your Block projects and strengthens social cohesion, the group said.
The City of Gary will use the Love Your Block grant to assist block clubs with basic supplies for neighborhood clean ups and other projects. The Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services will work to put clean up kits together. The MOCS is always looking for businesses, organizations and volunteers to support the city’s cleanup efforts. Those interested may call 219-881-4815 or to volunteer go to http://garyin.us/volunteer/. For block club information contact the Urban League of Northwest Indiana at 219-887-9621.
Cities of Service/City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA/Love Your Block is made possible with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The Mayor expressed thanks to Cities of Services, Bloomberg Philanthropies and CNCS.