2018: The Year of the 17Strong Neighborhood

2018: The Year of the 17Strong Neighborhood

2018 is the year of the neighborhood.

 

Hamilton has 17 of them. Of course, in a city as diverse as Hamilton, it should come as no surprise that each neighborhood is unique. Some neighborhoods are typically suburban with lots of residential streets ending in cul-de-sacs. Others are more traditionally urban – walkable, densely built and making up the “Downtown Hamilton” area within the center of the City. But it is all of these 17 neighborhood combined that together make up the city of Hamilton.

But Hamilton is a city that, historically, has been divided by rivers and train tracks. An east-side/west-side debate sometimes resurfaces even today. The traditional neighborhood of Lindenwald might have felt like a different country from the rolling hills of New London’s suburban neighborhood. Enter the resident-led 17Strong organization.

As part of the city of Hamilton’s new strategic plan back in 2012, the city wanted to provide residents with a “sense of place.” But, a city council-led effort to meet in individual neighborhoods had mixed results. In the neighborhood of Lindenwald, those initial meetings evolved into PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out to Others; Celebrate Our Lindenwald). This group, led by Hamilton volunteer Frank Downie, still meets on a monthly basis today. When city council moved to the East End neighborhood, however, similar efforts created little interest. At this point, two things were clear: 1. What works for one neighborhood may not work for another, and 2. Engagement had to come from within the neighborhood.

 

Take Two

 

The group went back to the drawing board. Council realized that they couldn’t simply host a few meetings and expect all neighborhoods to become magically engaged overnight. Instead, grassroots leadership was needed. One of the initial goals behind this “Sense of Place” movement was to “Celebrate” the different neighborhoods, but not “Separate.” But the key was understanding that the neighborhoods are indeed different, and should be celebrated for their differences. The “Sense of Place” group got out a map and started outlining those specific neighborhoods. When they were done with proposed names and boundaries, they had identified 17 distinct neighborhoods in the city of Hamilton. “Sense of Place” reemerged as 17Strong.

The original mission had not changed. 17Strong still provides a framework for communication and a sense of identity to residents. The difference was a seemingly small one: they originally wanted to create pride around the city of Hamilton. With newly identified neighborhoods in hand they worked to increase pride, ownership and a sense of place throughout the community. Residents could take pride in their particular corner of the city, and together, 17Strong helps Hamilton become more connected, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Clear Goals Set

17Strong has a few goals. Though they are no longer government-led, they are still focused on the ongoing conversation between the city government and the residents. City Councilwoman Kathleen Klink acts as the City Council Lead to help make that connection. They also want to help neighborhood residents organize to address their needs and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. And each neighborhood has different needs. In Lindenwald, limited street lights caused a potential safety issue. The neighborhood campaigned to have their residents leave porch lights on to provide additional safety measures. Jefferson had some abandoned buildings and construction fences that were in need of revitalization and beautification. Some neighborhoods just needed additional opportunities to come together within their own communities.

 

The Power of the Micro-Grant

 

Because each neighborhood has different needs, a one-size-fits-all program was not going to work. Only residents within each neighborhood could really identify what was needed in their respective neighborhood. So 17Strong introduced the Micro-Grant program to help support all of the unique neighborhoods and their unique needs. Hamilton citizens can apply for Micro-Grants in amounts from $500 to $2,500.

And these grants can cover a really wide range of events or programs. Since engagement is such an important piece of 17Strong’s mission, any program that finds a way to engage citizens or improve quality of life is considered. In 2017, one neighborhood hosted summer movies in the park using funding from a micro-grant. Lindenwald used a grant to create a community newsletter. In 2016, Neilan & Pershing Park in Riverview got a new basketball court. In 2017 alone, 17Strong awarded 21 Mico-Grants, pouring nearly $35,000 into the neighborhoods of Hamilton.

One micro-grant at a time, Hamilton’s neighborhoods are experiencing the difference. Neighborhood beautification projects are adding small community gardens or updated signs to brighten the streets. There is also a new effort in place to revitalize the Maple Avenue Freight House and transform it into a year-round farmer’s market. All over the city, neighbors and neighborhoods are becoming more connected and more engaged. 17Strong is working with residents to build a stronger, better tomorrow for all Hamiltonians. And 2018 promises to be one more big step into the future.

So we may need to revise our initial statement. 2018 isn’t the year of the neighborhood. It’s the year of the 17Strong Neighborhood. It’s a small change but it makes a big difference.

City Spotlight: The Caring Closet

City Spotlight: The Caring Closet

On the corner of Main and D Streets in Hamilton, tucked upstairs in what was once Patty’s Bridal, volunteers spend hours sorting and organizing huge piles of donated clothes. One volunteer tells a story about a little boy who received a pair of donated khaki shorts, the kind you’ll see in every store this spring. When he saw the shorts, he hugged them to his chest and cried. He had never owned a pair of shorts like this before. The Caring Closet may be hidden with a discreet D Street entrance, but it has a powerful presence here in Hamilton.

The Caring Closet began in a local resident’s basement back in 2010. Within a year, they had out-grown the small space. In October 2012, they set up shop in their current home on D Street. And the Caring Closet is truly a labor of love. The operation is volunteer-run and supported only through fund-raisers and donations from community members and organizations. Volunteers collect gently used clothes and shoes, along with new packages of underwear, socks and toiletries. All of these items are pulled together in a box which is discretely delivered to students in need.

Serving a Community of Students

The Caring Closet is dedicated to helping students who attend Hamilton City Schools. Teachers within the district refer students in need over a secure network. Privacy and confidentiality are important. Positive self-esteem can have a huge impact on children. The Caring Closet can help achieve that by providing behind-the scenes help, clothing and basic necessities.

The continuing support of the community is equally important to the Caring Closet’s success. Within the last year, the Hamilton Community Foundation generously provided additional funding to the Caring Closet. Previously, only children from kindergarten to sixth grade could receive boxes. During the 2016-2017 school year, the Caring Closet provided 520 boxes to students. With the increased funding from the Community Foundation, they’ve started to also serve students from seventh to twelfth grade. Because of this, they’ve already been able to provide nearly 600 boxes so far this school year. Each box includes toiletries and two weeks-worth of clothing.

In addition to donations, the Caring Closet relies on community fundraisers. The annual “Witches Night Out” event is a fun pub-crawl around Hamilton, and proceeds go to the Caring Closet. Schools within the Hamilton City School District hold “Socktober” celebrations, and classes collect new packages of socks during the month of October. And the Caring Closet recently received a $5,000 youth philanthropy grant. While the community generously donates many clothes, sometimes they just don’t have what they need. These fundraisers and grants help to provide those needed items: a winter coat in a size they don’t have in stock, jeans for boys, which they never seem to have enough of, or new packages of socks and underwear, something they always need.

How You Can Help

You can drop off donations at a convenient, locked donation box on the porch of their entrance on D Street. The Caring Closet accepts all sizes from 4T to Adult 2X, and asks for thoughtful donations. Providing clothes you’d choose for your own children is a good rule of thumb. There are some items that are always in-demand. They always need new, full-size toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body wash, bar soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Jeans for boys sizes 6 through 10 is something they never have enough of – boys tend to be rough on the knees! And, of course, new packages of underwear and socks are always needed.

“We have an active and strong board,” says Joni Copas, President of the Caring Closet Board and Director of Communications for the Hamilton City School District. “But we couldn’t do it without the community.” Some students, she tells us, have birthday parties and ask their guests to bring donations for the Caring Closet instead of gifts. We shouldn’t be surprised by this type of generosity in Hamilton, but right now, we have something in our eyes…

City Spotlight: The Coach House

City Spotlight: The Coach House

Meet Jared Whalen, Executive Chef at the Coach House

Executive Chef Jared Whalen’s resume reads like a who’s who of Cincinnati’s premiere restaurants. After landing a gig with Cincinnati celebrity chef Jean-Robert de Cavel at the Masionette, Jared’s journey took him on a foodie’s dream tour: Jean-Robert at Pigall’s, Pho Paris, Chalk Food + Wine, and Jean-Robert’s Table. After nearly a decade of playing in the Cincinnati dining scene, Jared came back home to Hamilton.

Around the Food Scene and Back Home Again

Growing up in Hamilton, Jared got his culinary start at the local Applebee’s. While he started as a dish washer, the restaurant atmosphere sparked something. He followed that spark to now-closed restaurant DiPaolo’s in Oxford, where the chef recognized his potential. He encouraged Jared to go to culinary school and helped him apply to the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. After graduation, Jared decided to come back home to stay close to his family. Because his grandfather was living in Hamilton’s Berkeley Square, Cincinnati gave him a manageable commute.

At the time, the Cincinnati food scene was at a critical tipping point. There were few quality restaurants in the city, a stark contrast to the 2018 Cincinnati dining experience. But Jared sought out Jean-Robert at the Masionette. There he gladly worked for free for three months, after which Jean-Robert offered him a paid position. They continued their working relationship across the city as Jared followed Jean-Robert to Pigall’s, Pho Paris, Chalk Food + Wine, finally landing as Chef Cuisine at Jean-Robert’s Table.

After his stint at Table, Jared took a hiatus from the kitchen. But when he was offered the Executive Chef position at The Coach House, he jumped at the opportunity. Jared was living in Hamilton, and he had lots of fond memories from visiting his grandfather at Berkeley Square. In a way, being part of the community he knew and loved was the real opportunity. At the Coach House, Jared is able to bring something to his hometown of Hamilton.

Fresh is the Key Ingredient

His kitchen is fueled by fresh ingredients – fish, proteins and vegetables. “You can really taste the difference,” he says. The Coach House, nestled in the Berkeley Square retirement community, serves many of those residents. And Jared is excited to bring those fresh ingredients and quality products to those deserving diners. With this philosophy in mind, the Coach House opened its doors to the public, maintaining a menu of classics while adding modern dishes with unexpected ingredient and flavor combinations. When asked what his favorite Coach House dish was, Jared answered, “I’m excited about the next dish.” His creative approach to cuisine is evident throughout the menu, which is always changing.

2018 brings a new adventure to the Coach House: BRUNCH! On Sundays, Chef Jared will be whipping up tasty brunch fare like stuffed strawberry French toast and Go Guetta Sandwiches. Jared is also working on a menu for Valentine’s Day that is sure to be the perfect dinner date for two. And as we move into Spring, we can look forward to Easter Brunch and Mother’s Day Brunch. No matter the dining occasion, we can guarantee that the food will be delicious!

To make a reservation today, call visit coachhousetavern.com or call (513) 856-7899.

5 Things to Know about Hamilton’s TAP Scholarship

5 Things to Know about Hamilton’s TAP Scholarship

1. It’s a Scholarship for College Graduates

Congratulations! You’ve just graduated from college. 7:30 AM finals, Capstone projects and research papers are all behind you. But if you thought you were done with scholarship applications, think again! Typically, we think of scholarships as something you apply for only when you’re beginning college. But the Talent Attraction Program (TAP) Scholarship is exactly the opposite. If you’ve graduated within the past 7 years, you may be eligible for financial support to help you manage your student loan debt. The scholarship awards recipients $5,000 over 25 months.

 

2. The TAP (Talent Attraction Program) is about YOU

Hamilton is a city in renaissance. We’ve seen a significant increase in new employers and new jobs in our city. Our downtown High Street has undergone a huge transformation, and Main Street is following close behind. RiversEdge, our riverfront amphitheater, has been voted the best live music venue in the Greater Cincinnati area two years running. Hamilton is a community thriving with arts, events and opportunities for outdoor recreation. There’s only one thing we’re missing now: you. We need young professionals like you in our community to help us maintain the momentum we’ve experienced in the past decade. There are job openings with growing companies in need of fresh talent. We have opportunities for entrepreneurship and a burgeoning community of entrepreneurs and resources to support you. You’re the final piece!

 

3. The options in Hamilton are limitless (within the limits)

To be eligible for this scholarship, you need to live within Hamilton’s downtown area. Within the designated area you have your choice of any number of housing options. The historic Mercantile lofts have apartments right on High Street, across from True West Coffee and right next to The Almond Sister’s bakery – two High Street mainstays. Brand new luxury apartments are opening later this year at the Marcum, across from the newly developed Marcum Park, with a balcony view of the RiversEdge amphitheater. And the designated area includes all three of Hamilton’s beautiful historic districts: Dayton Lane, Rossville and the German Village. If you’ve ever dreamed of owning and restoring your own historic home, that dream may be a reality sooner than you think! And with the Hamilton’s CORE Fund, you may be able to make a historic property your own.

 

 4. Hamilton is the first city in Ohio to offer this unique scholarship

And applications will be accepted beginning March 5, 2018. To apply, make sure you fulfill (or will fulfill) the eligibility requirements:

  • Graduated within the last 7 years from a STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, or Mathematics)
  • Not currently living in Hamilton BUT
  • With plans to move to or live in the designated areas in Hamilton (Urban Core Neighborhoods, including Downtown, CBD, Riverview, Dayton Lane, German Village and Rossville
  • Must demonstrate employment within Butler County

To apply, fill out the application scholarship online by visiting the Hamilton Community Foundation’s website: hamiltonfoundation.org/scholarship

 

 5. The TAP Scholarship is made possible by the Hamilton Community Foundation

The Hamilton Community Foundation awards millions of dollars in grants and scholarships annually. Located in the historic Lane-Hooven House in Hamilton’s German Village, they manage 700 individual, family and corporate funds, as well as nonprofit agency endowments. The TAP Scholarship is their latest grant designed to make the Hamilton community a better place to live, work and play. The TAP program has been developed to raise awareness of STEAM education and career opportunities. The program is also designed to attract civic engagement in our community. It is being funded through individual donors and current scholarship funds at the Hamilton Community Foundation.

City Spotlight: Hamilton Parks Conservancy

City Spotlight: Hamilton Parks Conservancy

Hamilton Parks Conservancy has had a busy 2017. They’ve spent the year updating some of the many neighborhood parks – Hamilton has 17, by the way. They’ve also added new playscapes to 6 parks, including Booker T. Washington Community Center’s new splashpad and playset. They’ve spent countless hours maintaining our parks and rec facilities (41 spaces, at last count). And, as a big bonus for the Hamilton Community, 2017 saw the grand opening of two new parks in the downtown area.

Marcum Park spent its inaugural summer as home to the Hamilton Flea. The two water features offer cool summer fun, and food trucks a-plenty surround the park. The public restroom behind RiversEdge amphitheater saw a few upgrades too: a new drinking fountain (for people AND dogs) and a bicycle repair station. And just two blocks away, High Street’s Rotary park also opened in 2017. Not only is this a nice green space for downtown workers, but it is also a popular space during local events like Operation Pumpkin and Alive After 5.

Big Goals for 2018

The Parks Conservancy team, lead by Director Steve Timmer, has truly had a banner year. After all that, it would be easy for them to kick up their feet and take a well-deserved winter break. But, while the cold weather drives us inside and out of the parks, this is when the real work of the Parks Conservancy begins.

Winter is the rebuilding season for the Parks Conservancy. This is the time of year that they pre-order materials and equipment that keep our many parks functioning. They demo and remove old or damaged equipment, and make way for the new. The conference room of the Parks Conservancy offices on 2nd Street looks like a war room: schematics of parks, equipment that is on-order, and planned purchases cover the table, hang on boards and paper the walls. Everything in the room screams: we’ve got work to do!

 

Winter Projects

So, how does the Parks Conservancy spend the fall and winter months? The first step is winterizing the public restrooms, irrigations and pumps. This is also the time that they can tackle remodeling restrooms or building a new Maintenance Building. They’re adding new signage to Marcum Park and a “Live Your Dream” sculpture at Joyce Park. They also clean up landscaping with re-edging and new mulch. In other words, they start preparing for the next parks season.

After all of the huge undertakings of 2017, the Parks Conservancy is gearing up for a busy 2018. This coming year, they will be placing an additional 12 new playscapes and equipment. Many of these will be placed in neighborhoods on the West Side of Hamilton. They hope to have all of these in place by May 2018. It’s an aggressive target, but they want the playgrounds for when school gets out for the summer.

 

The Future Looks Bright

And the Parks Conservancy has their eyes on the future. With two new parks, and tons of new equipment, they can start to focus on bigger goals. Timmer wants to have some programs available in Marcum Park, like after-work leagues. Movie nights in the park will definitely be a welcome addition to Hamilton’s summer entertainment. Also on the wish list? Developing an annual endowment to make sure we will have funds in the future to replace and update equipment as needed.

When asked about more long-term goals for the Parks Conservancy, Timmer doesn’t hesitate. He wants to focus more on beautification efforts in the parks and green spaces. We don’t know about you, but we think they already do a wonderful job making our city a beautiful place to live, work and play.