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Program improves neighborhoods' looks and connections

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    Scott Smith, with Simplified Facilities Group Inc., installs tongue-and-groove boards on a house being repaired Saturday in Elyria.



ELYRIA — A group of volunteers spent Saturday helping residents of an Elyria neighborhood with some minor home repairs as part of the pilot phase of a new community initiative.

The Community Foundation of Lorain County recently created the Ohio Neighborhood Engagement Lorain County to provide assistance to residents interested in working together and building a stronger sense of community.

Ten volunteers helped residents on West Avenue with home repairs Saturday morning and into early afternoon.

“The initiative is called ONE Lorain County and is a pilot program that is new this year,” Community Foundation of Lorain County’s Lisa Rupple said. “We picked a block, working with (Elyria) Councilman Marcus Madison, that we could focus on. The whole intent was to get neighbors to come to tell us what’s going on with the neighborhood and what it needs.”

Rupple said one of the main goals with the project was to get neighbors talking to each other to create more of a sense of community.

“This is just a way for them to connect,” she said. “Some of the feedback we were getting from our meetings was that neighbors don’t know anything about the people that live a couple doors down. As a result of all this, they’re getting to know each other and are coming forward with what they feel is important in their community.”

The pilot phase of the initiative is underway in Elyria’s Ward 5 and Lorain’s Ward 3 and offered up 10 mini-grants, for as much as $500 for each location. Groups of five unrelated residents living in an area applied for a grant to fund a project that can be completed in six months.

The Elyria pilot phase began with public meetings in April to engage residents and invite ideas for grant projects. Residents of households along West Avenue, between 6th and 14th streets, attended public meetings to learn more about how they could participate, developed ideas for projects in their neighborhood and then applied via a video application.

Saturday’s work on West Avenue marked the first working day for projects and included five homes on the block. Projects included concrete step repair, porch repair of loose or unsafe boards, new lattice work, and repair to trim and soffits. The work was completed by four volunteers from Simplified Facilities Group, a facility management company based in Elyria.

Simplified Facilities Group also donated materials and supplied all equipment and expertise.

Volunteers are expected to return next weekend to continue the work.

“Next weekend we’ll have about 25 people to do some volunteer work and do what we couldn’t get done this weekend,” Rupple said. “They’ll be fixing up landscaping, repainting some porches and do some teaching.”

Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

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