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Six Gary community leaders chosen for national Community Revitalization Fellowship

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Six community leaders from Gary have been selected for the national Center for Community Progress’ prestigious Community Revitalization Fellowship. The Community Revitalization Fellowship equips grassroots community leaders to lead projects and advocacy efforts to revitalize the vacant properties in their neighborhoods.

Gary’s Fellows are:

Sam Barnett Love, Chair of Arts and Culture and Parks Committee, Gary Redevelopment Department Comprehensive Plan; Independent Artist; Parks and Green Urbanism

Nina Burton, Founding member, PTSA West Side Leadership Academy; Lake County 4H

Freida Graves, Faith Farms; Lake County Eats Local; Gary Food Council; Gary Green Urbanism

Devin Hall, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.; NAACP; Urban League of Greater Chicago; Gary Community School Corporation Parent Teacher Association

Andrea Kelly Ledbetter, Volunteer Director of Community Initiative & Public Programming, Decay Devils, Inc.

Ola Morris, The Urban League of NWI Federation of Block Clubs; Block Club Coordinator; Love your Block Blight Elimination; Field Museum for Vacant to Vibrant

Gary faced significant competition in the Fellowship application process; in total, 40 communities applied for three slots. Gary’s six Fellows will participate alongside the same number of Fellows from Jackson, Miss. and Newark, N.J.

“The eighteen Fellows have demonstrated passion, leadership, and commitment to making their neighborhoods safer, more vibrant places,” said Dr. Akilah Watkins-Butler, president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress. “We’re honored to support them in their efforts through the 2019 Community Revitalization Fellowship.”

The Legacy Foundation will serve as the official Institutional Partner for Gary’s Fellows, providing guidance, mentorship, and logistical support. The Legacy Foundation has identified resident engagement as a strategic priority and has led multiple initiatives to empower and engage residents, including Neighborhood Spotlight and On the Table.

“Legacy Foundation’s previous initiatives have all built off one another to bring together residents and giving them a voice in the future of their community.  We are excited about this next step in the process that will help empower residents to lead projects that they have identified as important,” said Kelly Anoe, vice president of Legacy Foundation.

The majority of Fellows serve their neighborhoods in a volunteer capacity, through block clubs, neighborhood associations, or similar groups. The Fellowship connects neighborhood leaders to the sort of training and leadership development typically available only to community development professionals, helping to “level the playing field,” boost the visibility and impact of resident-led efforts, and support more equitable revitalization outcomes.

The Fellowship includes a series of learning exchanges over the course of nine months, in which Fellows visit each other’s communities to learn from their respective resident-led neighborhood revitalization efforts. In between each learning exchange, Fellows meet together in their own communities. Each Fellow sets goals – either for on-the-ground projects on vacant properties or advocacy efforts – to work on during the Fellowship. An Institutional Partner, typically a foundation or nonprofit organization based in each community, provides guidance and mentorship to that community’s Fellows.

Over the course of the nine-month Fellowship, Fellows gain knowledge about neighborhood stabilization and revitalization strategies, strengthen their on-the-ground projects or advocacy efforts, and build stronger relationships with their peers, local organizations, elected and government officials, and others.

The Fellowship serves communities in which vacancy, abandonment, and disinvestment are significant challenges, particularly in low- to moderate-income communities of color. In 2019, the Fellowship will focus on vacant property revitalization strategies that improve public safety.

Grant funding from The Oak Foundation provides the primary support for the Community Revitalization Fellowship.

More information about the Community Revitalization Fellowship and the 2019 Fellows is available here.

About the Center for Community Progress

The mission of Center for Community Progress is to foster strong, equitable communities where vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties are transformed into assets for neighbors and neighborhoods. Founded in 2010, Community Progress is the leading national, nonprofit resource for urban, suburban, and rural communities seeking to address the full cycle of property revitalization. The organization fulfills its mission by nurturing strong leadership and supporting systemic reforms. Community Progress works to ensure that public, private, and community leaders have the knowledge and capacity to create and sustain change. It also works to ensure that all communities have the policies, tools, and resources they need to support the effective, equitable reuse of vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties. More information is available

About the Legacy Foundation

Legacy Foundation is a community foundation that supports the passions of philanthropic individuals, organizations, and businesses in Lake County, Ind. Through the generosity of many donors, Legacy has awarded more than $40 million to charitable causes since its founding in 1992. With a deep knowledge of local issues, we work creatively across the public, private and philanthropic sectors to address challenges throughout Lake County. For more information, visit

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