Friday, July 30, 2010

This Summer Plan a Block Clean Up on Your Street-

This month as part of my community project for school, I decided to organize a block clean up. With the help of my neighbors we made our block even better. I walked door to door and talked to my neighbors about doing the clean up and picked a time that worked for the most people. I got trash bags and gloves from Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. I brought out snacks and drinks if people got hungry or thirsty. I got some tools from the garage. Many of my neighbors also brought out tools like shovels and wheel barrows. My neighbor Brad let us use his truck to put trash, weeds, and dirt in, this helped a lot. After an afternoon of hard work we had a party to celebrate the success of a clean street. It was really a lot of fun and we all feel better having done it.
Sam Ryan

Study Circle Focuses on Poverty

Recently a group of residents of the Southeast joined together to form a study circle with the topic being poverty. The Southeast was home to nearly 25,000 residents as of the 2000 Census. Of these neighbors, one in four lives below the poverty level, creating many needs and opportunities for support (Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center).
“Poverty is like the elephant in the room in the Southeast,” says Angie Calvert, co-facilitator and host of the circle. “It’s obvious it exists here, but people don’t usually want to talk about it.” Having spent her childhood in poverty, she knew it was an isolating condition that was hard to escape. When Angie was presented with the opportunity to start a Study Circle poverty was something she had wanted to talk about openly with a group of fellow residents interested in the same topic. She used the grant from the Making Connections Study Circle program to host discussion meetings over several months. Participants were Rob Uppencamp, Greg and Becky Besser, Ryan and Trish VanHoy, Michelle Chenoweth, Rodney Benifield, Kate Voss, John Loftlin, Carmen DeRusha, and Tori Calvert (Facilitator).
During the first session, the group identified what poverty looks like in the Southeast. Members of the group came up with a variety of answers, ranging from lack of economic education to no job opportunities. The discussion identified a question that continued to present itself throughout the later circle meetings: What exactly is poverty? The group eventually came up with a definition they could all agree on. They defined poverty as the inability to meet ones basic needs.
The second session was geared around envisioning our community without poverty. The group envisioned our community as a safe, clean, visible, green place with no police brutality and more quality education. The group came up with the following top five visions of what our community would look like without poverty: a culture of civic engagement and civic mindedness, well-informed, educated, and critical thinkers, flourishing eco-friendly infrastructure, safe and secure, and core set of basic needs are met for everyone.
The third discussion topic was the views that exist about the causes of poverty. The members discussed views that were identified both from the group and from the study circle help guide. The group talked about possible causes, such as economic inequality from birth, class segregation created by physical barriers (the interstate), lack of personal responsibility, and bad policy making. "As a facilitator, I was neutral throughout the discussion and didn't add my opinions. It was eye-opening to hear what others thought about poverty in Southeast - especially when we discussed the current picture and causes of poverty,” Tori Calvert says about the study circle. “The topic that most interested me was teen pregnancy, and it would be very interesting to hear what teens think about our ideas" she adds. The group settled on the number one cause of poverty in the Southeast as the lack of support people living in poverty experience.
Focusing on the topic of lack of support, the forth sessions discussion was about what they could do to help build support in the area. The group discussed many ideas, like starting a community garden, starting a non-profit that addressed poverty in a more social aspect, and creating resource kiosks throughout the southeast. Before settling on an action item, the group visited the Ki EcoCenter, a non-profit organization addressing poverty issues by providing youth based empowerment, involvement and development. The group also met with Jim Mulholland, Southeast Community Building Coordinator, to discuss what kind of things the community could best benefit from.
The study circle group decided to implement celebratory events in areas where they can find a few residents who would like to see more engagement in their neighborhood. The group is hoping the events will spur interaction, thus build social and economic support through building relationships. The events will have entertainment as well as resource information. The group is also considering making a documentary short video that explains how the idea of the events originated. “Finally, a group of people willing to step up and address something that has been an issue and overlooked for so long”, says Rob Uppencamp, study circle participant. “I am proud to be involved with this group and excited about the impact it could have. This has been one of the most encouraging and involved groups I have been associated with. This type of involvement is what study circles were intended to promote.”
If you would like to participate in the planning process of the events or would like an event to happen on your block, contact Angie Calvert at or 317-634-5079 ext.101.

Fountain Square Library Threatened With Closing

In April, the Board of the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library announced a plan to close the Fountain Square branch as part of a cost cutting effort. This plan involved closing the Martindale Brightwood and Glendale branches in December of 2010 followed by the Flanner House, West Indianapolis, Spades Park and Fountain Square branches in December of 2011.

In response, many Southeast neighborhood leaders began to meet locally and with leaders from other neighborhoods to challenge these closings. They began to plan strategy designed to highlight how crucial each of these branches are to the city neighborhoods in which they sit. These efforts led to a campaign to Save Our Libraries. This group established various facebook pages, a website at, a letter writing effort, and other activities.

On Saturday, May 8th, volunteers stood at the doors of many of the township libraries passing out flyers to encourage those patrons to see the closing of these branches as a city wide concern. One of the inequities of the Board proposal to close six branches was the perception the Library was balancing its budget on the backs of the poorest residents of our city.

On Monday, May 10th, fifty Fountain Square residents attended the public hearing at the IMCPL service center. Though many of them were unable to get inside the building, the presence of over 300 people for this hearing demonstrated the deep passion of many about the closings. On Tuesday, May 11th, Mayor Ballard pledged to find a “short term solution” to the Library crisis, but gave no details on how this solution would be funded.

On Wednesday, June 9th, many neighborhood residents brought lawn chairs and books and filled the sidewalks of Fountain Square in a demonstration of how important our branch is to our neighborhood. These residents were excited to hear that the Library Board was postponing their final decision on the closings until their July 8th meeting.

Much of the solution to this crisis involves finding a more sustainable and reliable source of long range funding for our library system. John Day, State Representative, has promised to propose legislation that would allow Marion County to utilize County Income Tax to help fund our libraries, something only Marion County isn’t allowed to do. In addition, many are suggesting that the property tax cap advocates have created this crisis. Regardless, what seems clear to many is that a world class city doesn’t close libraries.

Fountain Square Arts Council- Art Parade

Who doesn’t love a parade? The Fountain Square Arts Council knows that in the south east we do. This year’s Fountain Square Art Parade will be held on Saturday September 18th in conjunction with the Fountain Square Art Fair and Masterpiece in a Day.
Last year the FSAC moved ahead with the 1st annual Art Parade on July 4th despite the weather. Of the 50 registered entries for the parade, over half showed up to show their support of the event, and residents of the community stepped out with umbrellas and rain gear to watch the parade.
Artists with specialties in all areas, as well as neighborhood residents, community organizations and leaders, schools and churches who wish to share visual and performing arts are encouraged to participate in this one of a kind celebration of public art. The FSAC was inspired last year by groups like Friends of Fact, Norwood, I’CAN, the Libertarian party, and Herron Art Students who were in full parade attire to march on even with rain falling consistently throughout the day.
Be sure to include the parade as a fun and interactive free experience for the entire family as part of your September. Come early and watch as artists create one of a kind works of art, or wander through the Fountain Square Art Fair. Stick around after the parade to grab dinner at one of the many destination restaurants in Fountain Square. Information on how you or your group can participate can be found at There will be no cost for you or your group’s parade entry and submissions. We look forward to seeing what this year will bring for the Art Parade. Questions? Interested in learning more? Please email

Alabama Transformation Begins

For nearly eighteen months, residents of the 1500 block of Alabama Street have been meeting to dream, plan, and work toward the transformation of their esplanade and street. This partnership between Southeast Neighborhood Development and the Bates Hendricks Neighborhood Association is designed to replicate the award winning efforts on New Jersey Street.

In May, historic lighting was added to the esplanade and several houses received repairs and painting. In June, twenty-five trees and many flowers and other plants were added to the esplanade. In July, the city of Indianapolis will add a plaza, rain gardens, an art circle and other amenities to the south end of the esplanade. Once this is complete, permanent public art will be added to the plaza. SEND will also be rehabbing one house and making repairs on several others. All of these efforts are designed to build a stronger community on Alabama Street.