Note: The following was written by Megan Fetter, Community Builder at UNCA member agency the John H. Boner Community Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Below she describes how the Near Eastside neighborhood came together to organize a vision for their community, and leveraged an investment from Super Bowl XLVI to help make their vision a reality.
A Place to Call Home
In the heart of Indianapolis, roughly 30,000 residents call the Near Eastside neighborhoods home. Within the Near Eastside, 21 organized neighborhoods meet through neighborhood associations, block clubs, religious services, and other events. A strong spirit of community exists because of a sense of history combined with a dedication to community development. It is also a community that faced the highest rates of home foreclosure, even before the economic downturn. The Near Eastside communities have faced challenges and struggles, but are organizing for a better future.
In June 2007, the neighborhood came together for a Visioning Summit. Just one meeting drew 530 neighbors for 4.5 hours of neighborhood visioning. That adds up to 2,385 hours, the equivalent of $43,717 in volunteer time in the state of Indiana! That doesn’t include the countless hours put in to planning and organizing for the meeting, or the tens of thousands of volunteer hours put in after the meeting was finished.
In 2008, the neighborhood completed the Near Eastside Quality of Life Plan, a comprehensive work plan for creating change in our neighborhoods, convened by the John H. Boner Community Center and with the coordination of the Indianapolis Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). With the overarching goal that neighborhood residents create, initiate, and implement a plan to call their own, the Near Eastside Quality of Life Plan does just that: creates a blueprint for an improved quality of life for all.
Full Throttle - An Investment in our Neighborhood
After the neighborhood and its partners began to invest in and work on this plan, LISC called the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee to recommend the Near Eastside as the Legacy Project. Through careful consideration, the host committee chose the Near Eastside because of the capacity and vision we have for our neighborhood. Neighbors joined host committee members to oversee the work. Neighbors and partners leveraged the $1 million gift from the Super Bowl into an investment in the community of $155 million.
The project included housing for older adults, mixed-use housing developments, housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, a homeownership incubator, energy upgrades, a new co-op grocery store, a revitalized health and dental center, a beautiful gateway to the neighborhood, public safety projects, and a new health, wellness, and fitness facility.
Utilizing Community Partnerships
The Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center, opened shortly after the Super Bowl in 2012, is a youth and recreation center located on the historic Arsenal Technical High School Campus in the heart of the neighborhood. The main idea behind the building is one of partnerships: roughly 20 different organizations collaborate with staff to bring free arts, music, sports, cooking, leadership and various classes to children and the community. During 2012, more than 800 community meetings were held within the Center and 1,500 students were served through after-school programming.
Also located in the facility is The Fitness Zone—a full workout facility, comprised of membership representing a demographic snapshot of the community. Roughly 45% of members earn an annual income of $20,000 or less, half of membership is Caucasian and half minority, and 30% are older adults.
While the John H. Boner Community Center was a partner in the work that happened in the neighborhood, we take a backseat to the neighbors. They are the ones who get up early on Saturday mornings, stay late on Tuesday nights, and volunteer all of their spare time to create change in their communities. This is their story.
WATCH the video.