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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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One Voice for East Toledo, a community organization at the East Toledo Family Center, has developed a program to get residents and other stakeholders involved to improve their neighborhoods.

The group is seeking volunteers in the new Adopt-A-Block Ambassador program, where residents are encouraged to use resources in a “tool kit” to address issues facing their neighborhood.

“We are encouraging people to be the eyes and ears of their block and neighborhood,” said Jodi Gross, community builder at the East Toledo Family Center who is also head of One Voice.

The program already has 25 ambassadors, said Gross. It is based on Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful.

“We talked to them early on just to learn more about it, and let them know we were thinking about the project,” she said. “We decided we needed an informational piece to go along with the Adopt-a-Block program. What we’re trying to do is empower and engage people at the block level. They can ask questions, report things, call the Land Bank, and make changes one block at a time.”

An ambassador will coordinate efforts to involve, and work with, their neighbors, and be the liaison between One Voice for East Toledo and their block.

“Residents are key stakeholders because they live in East Toledo,” said Gross. “We already have people who have made changes on their block, but we want to give them tools. The more eyes and ears we have on the ground, the more we can accomplish. Whether they come to a meeting or an event, we know they’re out there doing this good work.”

Take action
The first step an ambassador takes, according to the tool kit, is to walk around their blocks and take note of the condition of houses, whether they are vacant, deteriorating, empty lots not being maintained, or cluttered with trash. Ambassadors are to take action depending on the condition of the parcel, property, structure, and house. Possible action includes contacting government offices that can help address the issues. For example, the Lucas County Land Bank, or Code Enforcement in Toledo, are contacted when there are problems with vacant houses. If the land bank is unable to acquire the house, the ambassador holds the property owner accountable by reporting issues to Toledo Code Enforcement at 419-936-2020.

The tool kit also highlights programs such as the Stop House Stripping Initiative, a partnership between the City of Toledo and the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing that alleviates stripping and theft from vacant houses. House stripping contributes to slum and blight, lowers property values, and loss of housing. The city will pay up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person stripping metal, stealing or salvaging. The tool kit goes into detail on how to contact these departments via phone or online. To report illegal house stripping, and register for a reward, call 419 936-2020.

In addition to housing, other resources in the tool kit address property, landlord/tenant, safety/crime, safe and clean parks, and homeownership/financial services issues. The tool kit can be found on the East Toledo Family Center’s website at www.etfc.org/OneVoice/tabid/131/Default.aspx.

Getting things done
“Our goal is to have an ambassador for every street. We know that’s not going to happen,” said Gross. “We know there are some people who have already been doing it. We just want them to have the tools that can help them be more efficient and get things done. That’s really what this is about.”

She encourages residents who have been involved in their neighborhoods to contact city officials when they see problems on their block.

“Just reporting things and getting them on someone’s radar is very important for this to work,” she said. “It’s similar to Block Watch, and we know that works. But not everyone wants to come to a monthly meeting. With this program, people can be involved by reporting information. That’s exactly what we want. We also want to know they’re doing it. It really takes all of us to make a difference. We believe 100 percent the city can’t do it alone, we can’t do it alone. We have to be together on this. We have the One Voice platform, and our committees. But to get more people involved, we need these leaders to help us.”

For more information, contact Gross at 419-691-1429 or email jodig@etfc.org.

 

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