He hopes to see even more change in areas of the city that need a boost through his work with Impact Cleveland, the new name for the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative.
Tommey, community development director for Impact Cleveland, is a Chickamauga, Ga., native, but went to school and played on the baseball team at CSCC in 2003 and 2004. Returning to Cleveland had always been “on the radar,” especially when he learned of the new position.
He had previously been working in Philadelphia, and when he and his wife, Raven, learned she was pregnant, they thought of finding a way to get back closer to family in the Chattanooga area.
That is when the position with Impact Cleveland opened up, and he felt compelled to apply, having a background in some of the areas that the job entails.
“I moved to Philadelphia in 2009 and lived and worked there, and went to school there, for four years,” Tommey explained. “I graduated with my master’s of urban studies with a concentration on community development.”
Tommey worked with two nonprofit organizations there, one of which was the Affordable Housing Centers of Pennsylvania, which specialized entirely in housing. His expertise was in foreclosure prevention.
“That was where I got my feet really wet in this field,” he remembered. “I knew I wanted to serve people in a hands-on way that impacts their lives.”
Impacting lives is what he hopes to accomplish in his new role with the local organization.
“The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, or Impact Cleveland, is an exciting, new, ambitious, collaborative endeavor made up of the ideas and dreams and visions of lots of different community residents and leaders that want to see Cleveland become an even greater community than it already is, particularly in challenged, troubled, impoverished neighborhoods,” he stressed.
With that in mind, Tommey, who began his job at the beginning of January, has already met with many of these community residents and leaders to gauge their vision for the first community to be addressed. The neighborhood is located in the vicinity of the Blythe Avenue Family Support Center, though the boundaries of the community revitalization have not been officially set.
“We have pinpointed that area for our first revitalization endeavor,” Tommey said. “And the first thing, and what I am doing now, is meeting with key partners and stakeholders and community residents, figuring out what the needs are and what the community wants from this initiative which will strategically invest in lots of different ways into that community.”
He said the first quarter of 2014 will consist of these types of meetings, as well as a formal needs assessment of the community. Then, in the last three quarters of the year, work in the community will proceed.
“We will be moving forward on meeting strategic goals in five areas: physical revitalization, neighborhood safety, civic engagement and social revitalization, community leadership and empowerment, and workforce development,” Tommey said.
He added, “In 2014, we are hoping that in each of those five focus areas we make small steps in achieving goals.”
Tommey said that could include 30 small rehabilitation projects, a community garden, strengthening of the neighborhood association, and a community event that features workforce development partners and their programs.
“We are still in the process of setting some concrete goals, which we will be able to do better once we receive information from the needs assessment,” he noted.
Lisa Mantooth, vice president of Partner Relations for United Way of Bradley County, said Tommey is exactly the type of person, with the proper background, for this new position.
“Cleveland is very fortunate to have Dustin Tommey on our Impact Cleveland team,” she said. “His education and experience serving Philadelphia in their revitalization efforts is unprecedented. We could not have hired a more qualified or passionate individual.”
Tommey said he is excited to be back in the area, and excited to see the progress Impact Cleveland will help promote in the coming years.
“This whole transition for me from Philly back to Cleveland has been the biggest blessing,” he said. “I feel like my hopes and dreams and passions are really colliding with a real opportunity for this community, and that is such a perfect coming together to what I have worked for.”
Tommey stressed, “I am so excited for the potential of what this will become.”