2019 Celebration of Rochester Neighbors

Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Award Winners Announced

NeighborWorks® Rochester and the City of Rochester is thrilled to announce the winners of its Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Awards. The awards will be distributed on Monday, June 3rd from 5:00PM to 7:30PM at the City of Rochester Public Market. Like a city-wide block party, the event will feature live music, food and a chance to have fun with neighbors from throughout the city.

Northwest Quadrant Community Champion: Barb Ann Kupiec is a long-time resident of the Maplewood Neighborhood who has dedicated her retirement years to improving the neighborhood. As a Master Gardener, Barb Ann generously shares her expertise by leading a team of volunteers as Chair of the Maplewood Gardening team. Together they maintain public garden areas, planters and trees along Dewey Avenue. Additionally, Barb serves on the Maplewood Neighborhood Assoc. Board of Directors as Board Secretary. She has served on both the Maplewood Public Safety Committee and the Zoning Committee. Barb Ann is also involved with taking care of feral cats in the neighborhood. According to her nominator, Enrica Fleming, “Barb Ann invests most of her time, energy and talent to help improve the physical appearance of the neighborhood, helping to stabilize it and attract new property owners, when she could have chosen a leisurely retirement. She is truly a wonderful example of what each of us can do for our community.” Barb Ann also volunteers her time as a Master Gardener throughout the county, cultivating plantings and maintaining gardens at many county parks.

Southwest Quadrant Community Champion :  John DeMott is described as very serious about the betterment of his community, and also very friendly and kindhearted. Some of his community involvement includes assisting with the weekly farmer’s market in the summer, and engaging residents, businesses and students to beautify the community with flowers and plantings along the street. He was also influential in the birth of the Brooks Landing development. As a musician, John often donates his time to provide music and entertainment to the community, including organizing an event called Beats @Brooks to provide music for residents of the Southwest neighborhoods. John is a firm believer in supporting local businesses, with a true desire to see them succeed. John was nominated by John Demps along with a long list of others, who stated, “John is proactive in getting things done in the neighborhood, is very dependable, easy to work with and passionate about the work he is doing. He has a strong belief in the character of his neighbors and neighborhood.”

 Northeast Quadrant Community Champion: Vincent Russello, nominated by Carlos Torres of the Northeast Neighborhood Service Center, is the founder and president of the Vineyards Neighborhood Association. This enterprising resident is a true leader in his neighborhood, working tirelessly to resolve many community issues and working with the city to relay concerns. He is very creative in collaborating and working with other groups to improve the community. He has reached out to agencies to bring them into the neighborhood to assist those in need and regularly invites new ideas and input on projects. He’s a driver in obtaining funding for community improvement projects and is great at bringing people together for support, safety and promotion of the neighborhood. His nominator said of Vince, ”he’s consistent in reaching his goals, is a good communicator and never gives up on resolving community issues.”

Southeast Quadrant Community Champion: Joe DiFiore’s involvement and accomplishments are almost too many to list! This dedicated volunteer gives hours of his own time for the people and families of Beechwood and the City of Rochester. Some of the boards and organizations he serves include the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, Peace Village Homeless Encampment, Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, and Little Flower Community. Joe is skilled at organizing groups to get projects done. He was instrumental in getting Play Streets established, which resulted in a policy developed for Healthi Kids Coalition and the City of Rochester Dept. of Recreation for more neighborhoods to take on Play Streets – where 2 weeks of the summer time is set aside to close the streets for children of the neighborhood to play. Another project he championed was to create a StoryWalk at #33 School, Ryan Center and Sully Library.

Joe’s other passion is affordable housing, as a Board member of City Roots Community Land Trust, he works to establish and promote permanently affordable, quality housing in our city.  His vision includes:

  • Vacant properties turned over to the Trust for community-led development, which will turn them into community-held assets
  • Infrastructure and playful design elements that encourage people to walk and bike
  • Utilizing vacant lots for pop-up events, community gardens and play spaces

His nominator, Nancy Johns Price, says of him, “Joe does so much for so many. He is truly a champion who understands hard work and commitment to make a community strong. He sees a need and gets people organized and works on solutions.”

Community Leader Award: The Community Leader Award recognizes volunteer leaders who spark change by engaging others in improving their community. Devon Reynolds, Sr. and Jovan Bradley, co-owners of the Brothers and Sisters Unisex Salon embody this in their everyday lives. According to nominator Kim Hare, the two “are father figures, counselors, advocates, role models, problem solvers, community change makers, and more.” The have addressed issues in their neighborhood, including the challenges that families face from lack of food, kids hanging on street corners at all hours, lack of job opportunities, and feelings of despair and hopelessness. Projects they have organized include:

  • Starting a school supply give away to assist families
  • Providing free haircuts in the schools during the school year
  • Starting a food pantry – Sweet Ida’s Food Pantry – soliciting donations that include food and clothing.
  • Holding events during Black History Month and providing free books to children
  • Providing Thanksgiving dinners to those in need – more than 100 dinners in 2018!
  • Organize an annual Father’s Day Celebration
  • Collaborating with Trillium Health and Common Ground to host an event for HIV/STD testing and education, blood pressure screening and more
  • Hosting Community Roundtables to provide a venue for the community to speak, express their thoughts and concerns

“Devon and Jovan are unique and crucial assets to the Maplewood Community. They see an issue…and roll up their sleeves and get to work.”

 

What and where, is Healthy Blocks?

Swillburg Neighborhood Branded Street Signs

Focusing on strengthening assets, Healthy Blocks works to improve resident confidence. This leads to their greater economic and social re-investment to improve the neighborhood’s image, encouraging homebuyer interest and supporting long-term residency. NeighborWorks® Rochester’s other lines of business also contribute to the success of Health Blocks; for example, home improvement loans are offered to all Healthy Blocks neighborhoods, past and present, for a further reduced rate and with a waived application fee. Healthy Blocks measures its impact through tracking house sale data (including asking and sales prices and days on market) and taking resident confidence and property conditions surveys in years one, three, and five. Our “legacy neighborhoods” and the projects organized by Healthy Blocks are:

Swillburg Neighborhood (2005-2010)

  • Implemented a “unifier” project to visually connect the area – decorative house plaques with the Swillburg logo, still in use today
  • Organized a ‘group purchase’ of driveway replacements for homeowners and landlords, which came at a discount from the contractor
  • Helped residents plan and build a gazebo in Otto Henderberg Park, used for concerts and social events
  • Installed branded gateway signage around the entrances to the neighborhood, giving Swillburg a distinct “district” feel
  • Saw the average house price increase from $48,000 to its more historic value of $82,000 by the end of the Healthy Blocks term
  • Membership in the Swillburg Neighborhood Association increase by more than 40% and resident participation in social activities increase by 20%
  • Realtor’s Association uses the name “Swillburg” when selling property in the area

Brooks Landing Neighborhood (2007-2013)

  • Helped organize annual community skate parties at the Genesee Valley Park skating rink
  • Held a barbecue and music event at the University of Rochester footbridge for students and community members
  • Implemented 10 Makeover Madness matching grants for residents for exterior home improvements
  • Held an pop-up art gallery on Genesee St. for First Friday featuring neighborhood artists
  • Planted over 200 perennial plants in the spring of 2012, and over 300 daffodil and tulip bulbs in the fall

 The Pocket Neighborhood LogoThe Pocket Neighborhood (2008-2013)

    • Launched an identity/marketing campaign using the residents’ choice of name, “The Pocket”, including logo creation and street banners along Atlantic Ave.
    • Organized the installation of colorful, artistic crosswalks along Atlantic and E. Main designed by a local artist and painted by residents
    • Helped to create a community garden on a vacant lot on Heinrich St. and organized its further expansion later by adding six new raised beds, constructing three new public sitting benches, and planting over 400 daffodil bulbs
    • Installed over 200 matching house plaques, over 75% of the neighborhood
    • The average sale price per square foot of homes increase over 20% between 2008 and 2012 

The Triangle Neighborhood (2014-present)

  • Launched the initiative in 2014 with a “Taste of the Triangle” party drawing over 150 participants and engaging residents, local businesses, and community partners
  • Installed four artistic bike racks at the Culver-Merchants Point created by local metal fabricators
  • Completed a branding campaign including the neighborhood’s name, logo, brand statement, and website that has begun to be used widely around Rochester
  • Designed, printed, and began distributing Welcome Wagon packets and gifts to new neighbors in the Triangle
  • Held multiple social events including three pub crawls featuring Triangle Merchants Association member businesses and a pop-up First Friday gallery in a vacant commercial space with partners from Gallery Q and Image Out
  • Helped to form and engage a Triangle planning group that meets monthly
  • Between 2014-2016, average home sale prices, resident confidence, feelings of safety, and ‘house proud’ levels all improved significantly
  • Other community projects, including gateway signage, a mural, and micropark at the Cobblestone house are underway

2017 Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Awards Announced

LOGO RectangleNeighborWorks® Rochester is thrilled to announce the winners of its Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Awards. The awards were distributed on Monday,  June 5thfrom 5:00PM to 7:30PM at the City of Rochester Public Market. Like a city-wide block party, the event featured live music, food and a chance to have fun with neighbors from throughout the city.

Nolia BrooksSouthWest Quadrant Community Champion : Mrs. Nolia Brooks, grew up in the PLEX area, and is a 50-year resident who has a love for her community. She consistently cleans and plants flowers in the PLEX neighborhood round-about on Ford Street and Plymouth Avenue, and other locations in the area. She regularly participates in the United Way Day of Caring and the City’s Clean Sweep. She’s very supportive of the PLEX meetings and supports neighborhood issues at additional meetings of concern to the neighborhood. Mrs. Brooks helps to plan social gatherings and heritage celebrations for the neighborhood. Her nominator, Dorothy Hall, says she is “someone who is deserving of this award, and who gives so much to her community.”

NorthEast Quadrant Community Champion: Andre Morrison, the Community Champion for the Northeast Quadrant, is described as “an individual who is eager toAndreMorrisonface bring about a difference in people’s lives regardless of recognition,” by his nominator, Carlos Santana. In addition to providing hundreds of free haircuts at his barbershop, Mr. Morrison is always “thinking how to improve the neighborhood he grew up in and uplifting and encouraging people so they may see a better future.” By hosting an annual Cut The Violence event in his shop, Mr. Morrison has helped many families with more than just a free cut for students to go back to school, he has also offered guidance to those in trouble, mentored youth and shared his skills and advice with those interested in a barbering career. Carlos added that Mr. Morrison is “A soft-spoken individual who cares for those in need by providing a service that brings these children self-worth and self-pride and doing it from the heart.”

NorthWest Quadrant Community Champion: As a 17-year resident of the Edgerton Neighborhood, the Northwest Quadrant Community Champion, Ms. Piper Dailey-Seman, is an active member and leader in the Edgerton Neighborhood Association. As the Association’s Acting Vice President, she encourages neighbors to come together and communicate their concerns about their community. She often is a team leader for the city’s Clean Sweep Program. Her nominators from the Northwest Neighborhood Service Center team states,”her activities have brought awareness (safety) to the Edgerton Neighborhood and her work has been integral, drawing others to the neighborhood and the association.”

Kelly Bush faceSouthEast Quadrant Community Champion: Ms. Kelly Bushis a member of the Monroe Avenue Merchants Association (MAMA) and is actively involved with the Wadworth Square Neighborhood Association. This creative and energetic business owner supports many neighborhood initiatives and beautification efforts. The Southeast Neighborhood Service Center team nominated her, saying, “She never says it can’t be done. She is a positive force on Monroe Ave that keeps the avenue working together as they continue to grow…She cares for the neighborhood and it shows.”

Community Leader Award: The Community Leader Award recognizes volunteer leaders who spark change by engaging others in improving their community. Geri and Joe Machado are the embodiment of this award, having spent more than 20 years as leaders and organizers in their Highland Park community. As 45-year residents of the Highland Park neighborhood, they have volunteered countless hours organizing their neighborhood’s National Night Out Against Crime, serving as president of the May Street Block Club, participating in PAC-TAC and neighborhood watch programs, organizing the neighborhood Clean Sweep efforts, and much more. The Machado’s were nominated for the award by Lt. Frank Alberti, of the Rochester Police Department. He said, “They have worked tirelessly for years without recognition and do not seek such. They are modest, humble people who care about our community more than anyone I know.” The couple has hosted community outreach and holiday events in their immaculate home, welcoming neighbors and first responders, and improving the area’s quality of life, as well as relationship between the neighbors and the Rochester Police Department

The couple also communicates regularly with the D.A.’s Office, Judges and defense attorneys, participates in Operation Court Watch and spends long days in the courtroom following cases pertinent to their neighborhood. They also report to the community and the police department of the progress of cases, and solicit feedback from the community to relay to the D.A.’s Office and Judges.Marchadosfaces

Geri and Joe are also very supportive of other community events and represent their neighborhood at NBN6 meetings. This power couple are true leaders in their community and the heart of their neighborhood.

Investing in The Triangle through Leadership Training

Part of NeighborWorks® Rochester’s Healthy Blocks program is investing in resident leaders who can work to transform their community from the inside-out. As part of this goal, every year we sponsor a team of residents and City stakeholders to attend NeighborWorks® America’s Community Leadership Institute (CLI), a three-day event focused on training emerging leaders in skills for community organizing and neighborhood revitalization. This year’s attendees were Triangle residents Mikey Rodriguez, Julie Boswell, and Lorna Wright. Stakeholder attendees were: Baye Muhammad, the City’s Commissioner for Neighborhood and Business Development, LaShunda Leslie-Smith from Connected Communities, and Maureen Duggan from Rochester’s Community Design Center.

During the training, attendees took classes on building on community assets, organizing volunteers, marketing your neighborhood, sharing your success stories with the media, and other critical topics taught by experienced and knowledgeable faculty from all over the country. They also had to opportunity to share stories and ideas with other groups. In total, 110 teams from the nation – over 1000 participants – attended the event.

As a follow-up to the CLI, NeighborWorks® America provides a small grant opportunity to each team to put a resident-driven community project into action. This year’s team has chosen to pursue painting a community mural on Culver Road, the main gateway street for both The Triangle and Beechwood neighborhoods. The mural will bring the community together, both by addressing residents’ concerns about the street-facing facades of Culver Road commercial spaces and by adding unique and recognizable place-making elements to the The Triangle. Congratulations to all the attendees!

Building Upon the Past

till-fritzschingTill Fritzsching of Rochester, NY, found his new home on Craig’s List three years ago. Although the house was set for demolition by the City of Rochester, he saw the home and felt that it was a metaphor for his own life journey – as he puts it “the home had been through hell, and so had I.”
In 2013, Mr. Fritzsching had hit rock bottom. He was divorced, and no longer employed at the successful mid-west company he had once presided over. His home of the past few years had been a jail cell due to addiction. A physical injury had set him back as well and he ended up living in his mother’s home.
When he first saw the 1920’s era house on Northview Terrace, he knew it had potential, despite years of neglect and trees growing through the roof. The only tenants for years had been rodents. As the building was scheduled for demolition the very next day, the price was affordable. However, there was much work to be done to save it from the wrecking ball.
A neighbor referred him to NeighborWorks® Rochester, as the organization had assisted several other homeowners in the neighborhood. While he had put in a lot of his own sweat-equity, and had to learn to negotiate a labyrinth of homeowner-assistance programs, he still had a long way to go to rehab the home. NeighborWorks® Rochester was able to assist on several fronts.
NeighborWorks® Rochester was able to provide Mr. Fritzsching with resources for lead testing and encapsulation in the his home, garage, and basement, a new roof, gutters and eaves, exterior and interior paint, a new porch. “The house went from the worst on the block to one of the best,” Mr. Fritzsching stated. Also added to the home were new windows and a water heater.

In the past 5 years, NeighborWorks® Rochester has invested $4,784,000 in loans to help 279 homeowners purchase or rehab their home. Many of these loans also had a grant as part of the assistance, which allowed homeowners even more capacity to fix their house, without having to finance all of the expense. NeighborWorks® Rochester will work with customers who may be turned away by traditional lenders due to credit issues or not having enough equity in their home. The organization is a resource to homeowners who may face losing their home or living in disrepair or unhealthy or unsafe conditions.

“NeighborWorks® Rochester left a great taste in my mouth, and was my first choice once my credit was cleaned up. The contractors were great and I’m really satisfied,” Mr. Fritzsching added.
In a neighborhood hard-hit by the city’s decades of manufacturing job loss, his home now stands out as one of the nicest on the street.
Mr. Fritzsching added, “I’m not done yet. I just built myself a new back porch, and it really satisfies me to look at where this house was and where it is now. I consider not only the house but the project as a metaphor for my own life recovery in the sense that I made a commitment to restoring a once beautiful thing, much like my own life, to not necessarily what it was before but rather a recreation of a new vision of what it could be. I believe that the past should always be recognized and the foundation on what we can build, but we should never be limited by it for its own sake. That to me at least, gives me the freedom to not only build upon the past but create a new reality from it.”
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