Impact Cleveland to launch needs survey Saturday
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Mar 19, 2014 | 762 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DIRECTOR OF IMPACT CLEVELAND Dustin Tommey points out a section of Cleveland the initiative hopes to target in the next couple of years. VISTA Cheri Worley studies the satellite map alongside Tommey. Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER
DIRECTOR OF IMPACT CLEVELAND Dustin Tommey points out a section of Cleveland the initiative hopes to target in the next couple of years. VISTA Cheri Worley studies the satellite map alongside Tommey. Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER

Blythe neighborhood residents might find themselves on the receiving end of a needs assessment survey conducted by Impact Cleveland volunteers beginning Saturday, and continuing through March 30.

Every household to complete the survey will receive a $10 Walmart gift card. The card may be redeemed at the Impact Cleveland office in the Blythe Family Resource Support Center.

According to Director Dustin Tommey, questions focus on the residents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety, housing issues, and community strengths and weaknesses.

The information provided will develop a baseline for work completed by Impact in the Blythe community.

“Our vision is to see disadvantaged communities of Cleveland be transformed through economic, physical and social revitalization,” Tommey said. “That is going to be across the board what we are about. Our mission is to serve as a catalyst to comprehensively and holistically revitalize neighborhoods in Cleveland.”

Residents in the Blythe area have already expressed an interest in the revitalization process. Long-term homeowners and leaders of the community formed the New Blythe Community Association. Members advocate for the Blythe neighborhood to become the best possible.

The next meeting will take place a week after the needs assessment and is open to the Blythe community.

Tommey joined the association and discussed with members the changes they would like to see in the community.

He explained revitalization in the Blythe community would be a direct result of residents’ working alongside local resources.

Efforts for revitalization will focus on five main areas: housing rehabilitation, neighborhood safety, workforce development, civic and social revitalization and community empowerment.

Answers provided through the needs assessment will allow Tommey to list specific categories under each of the five areas of interest.

He highlighted housing issues as a main problem to be addressed by Habitat for Humanity and Volunteer Ocoee. At this point, the plan is to complete 30 to 40 small home repair projects within the next year.

Other categories are more difficult to flesh out.

“For example, neighborhood safety, how do you measure that?” Tommey asked. “What is the baseline? Is it perception based? If so, we will — from these surveys — know what those needs are.”

A follow-up survey conducted next year will allow Impact to determine the effectiveness of any programs begun this year.

Impact currently operates as an initiative under the umbrella of the United Way of Bradley County. Plans for permanency will develop as the initiative grows into its own organization. Neighborhood revitalization efforts tend to be a long-term commitment.

Tommey said work completed alongside Blythe could continue for five or 10 years.

“No matter how much money you’ve got [and] whatever resources are on your side, this kind of work is still a long-term effort,” Tommey said. “What I would like to communicate to people in this is we are here to stay. We are not another group who is promising something, but won’t deliver.”

Impact is more than just an initiative. It is collaboration between the neighborhood and resources found throughout the community like The Refuge and Cleveland State Community College.

Creating community support for the project will allow Blythe residents to realize they are not alone in the revitalization project. Tommey said support for the community would allow it to recast its vision and find its voice. Several organizations and institutions have stepped up alongside the initiative. Tommey said he hopes more will join as word of the effort spreads.

“That is what I think success looks like,” he said. “It looks like us addressing these needs collaboratively with the community itself and these other partners who want to invest here.”

At least a 60 percent response rate is hoped for on the upcoming surveys. Although outside resources are coming alongside the Blythe area, involvement from the community will determine the success of the revitalization efforts.

Tommey used a favorite quote by Chinese philosopher Laozi to describe his goal for the project, “Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, ‘We have done this ourselves.’”