By Johanna Barnowski, Intern
Middlebury, the first settlement in what is now Akron, is a neighborhood that surrounds much of downtown Akron, yet it is often ignored. Organizations such as Neighborhood Network have made it their mission to change this in order to build community and give hope to Middlebury residents.
Neighborhood Network is one of the main organizations that have made Middlebury a priority. They are a backbone group that brings together organizations, businesses, and residents to establish events that make a difference in this community. Neighborhood Network’s mission is to, “Build a unified voice to renew our community,” according to Marissa Little, Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinator. Little has been a forerunner in advocating for Middlebury and facilitating ways to make change in Akron.
Keep Akron Beautiful has been able to take part in the revitalization and beautification of this community through the use of our Community Pride Trailer and our Litter and Illegal Dump Trailer. The trailers are stocked with landscaping, litter removal, and other supplies that have been vital to the success of these projects.
Our trailers aren’t our only valuable resource though! Little said, “We couldn’t do our work without the supplies from the trailers, but that’s not the only way Keep Akron Beautiful helps us. They provide the valuable resource of knowledge. They have expertise and are a huge help when it comes to planning a cleanup and problem solving.”
Keep Akron Beautiful has also assisted with other Middlebury beautification events. Most recently, our Community Pride Trailer was able to provide over 200 volunteers with cleanup and landscaping supplies at United Way Day of Action’s project “Middlebury Blitz” – in coordination with The Well Community Development Center.
This year, they have used KAB trailers to cleanup .23 tons of litter and debris in April with Hitchcock Flemming & Associates on Roselawn/Excelsior, 5.68 tons in May around Bettie St., .38 tons in June with Hoban High School at Corley & Beaver St., and 150 lbs. in June with Buchtel CLC on Excelsior. Collectively, these volunteers put in 476 man hours on these projects!
Neighborhood Network has recently merged with Habitat for Humanity of Summit County in order to bring in new groups of volunteers, increase revitalization services, and spread awareness of their mission. Little said that the merger with Habitat for Humanity of Summit County has, “increased the capacity of how many people we can serve. They bring expertise and abilities that we don’t have on our own.”
Neighborhood Network realizes the importance of a community having pride and hope. They work to reinvest value and dignity into Middlebury in hopes that the individual lives and community health of this neighborhood will grow and flourish.
Little says, “Building community helps the residents know that they are not alone in this. They aren’t isolated in this fight. It is a constant effort to build pride and identity in this community, but it is growing.”
Neighborhood Network will continue to develop Middlebury to help the people feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves – where they can find pride and hope. Keep Akron Beautiful is thankful that we get to work alongside such a wonderful organization and see firsthand the transformation happening in a neighborhood that is so close to home.
Neighborhood Network has partnered with several local organizations to create a team called the “What’s Next Committee.” They are creating a survey for Middlebury to find neighborhood assets and challenges, and are hosting several community events to empower the neighbors to steer decisions happening in their own back yard. Keep up with Neighborhood Network’s Facebook Page to see the survey when it’s ready, and for upcoming events. Neighborhood Network will host Night out Against Crime on August 1 from 5p.m. to 7 p.m. (intersection of E Market and S Arlington)!