Many residents and stakeholders banded together to improve quality-of-life. Here are just a few of the accomplishments achieved through this community-driven process:
Economic Development Accomplishments
- Downtown Gateways to Receive Facelift: Our Neighborhoods convening agency, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, recently announced that it received almost $380,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to renovate several key properties at the gateway to downtown Main Street Woonsocket including the former Mulvey’s Hardware Store building (located on South Main and Bernon Streets in Woonsocket) and Champs Diner (located at Heritage Place on Front Street in Woonsocket). The project will result in space for at least 6 new businesses and contribute to the hiring of at least 16 new employees from the target neighborhoods. The project is expected to be complete by 2016.
- Better Biking to Work, School, and in the Community: This project, organized by the Woonsocket Transportation Advisory Committee (Family Resources Community Action – now Community Care Alliance – initiative in partnership with the Northern RI Chamber of Commerce, Valley Transportation, NWBRV, the City of Woonsocket, Terry’s Auto, John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission, Good News Garage, and RIPTA), provided bike racks throughout the community built from recycled materials along with locks and helmets to encourage safe biking. The racks encourage biking in the community, as well as serve as community art installations. The project leveraged technical support from both Riverzedge Arts youth, who painted the racks and the City of Woonsocket who were responsible for the racks’ installation and their continued maintenance. The Northern RI Chamber of Commerce also be helped the group leverage additional racks from local business owners and bike enthusiasts; to date, 6 racks have been donated and an additional 5 racks were purchased by FRCA through an Early Action Grant from NWBRV and LISC. Bike helmets and locks to encourage biking were given away at the first annual Transportation Fair held in May.
- Main Street Candlelight Stroll: This holiday-themed event brings neighbors and business owners together to celebrate the winter holidays while renewing interest in Woonsocket’s historic downtown Main Street area. The Main Street Event Planning Committee including residents and community partners (such as NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, RiverzEdge Arts, the City of Woonsocket, the Blackstone River Valley Tourism Council, the Main Street Riverfront Initiative, the Northern RI Chamber of Commerce, and Beacon Charter High School for the Arts) plan the event each year. The Stroll is held annually in December in Woonsocket’s historic downtown Main Street area. After a successful first year in 2009, the planning group expanded its scope to host the Pumpkins in the Park event at River Island Park in October 2010- an event that they also hoped to continue annually. The events get Main Street merchants involved each year, draw hundreds into the City’s downtown district, and are entirely volunteer-led.
- Commercial Corridors and Livability Study: Investments from the LISC Commercial Corridors initiative and Statewide Planning’s Livability study help create plans to revitalize downtown and spur the implementation of these plans. Some highlights include:
- A city-wide market study by LISC’s MetroEdge determined what types of businesses would best fit the City and its downtown.
- The City hosts several forums and presentations over the course of 2012 & 2013 to develop the Livability Plan with assistance from the Cecil Group. Hundreds of residents and stakeholders are involved in the process and the City Council approved the plan in 2013.
- Two “Main St. Stroll” Lease-Up events are held in 2013 opening the doors to several vacant properties in the district and resulting in new tenants after both events.
- The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, City of Woonsocket, and NWBRV partner to extend the existing state-wide bike path using on-road striping and signage to connect the Rivers Edge Complex off of Hamlet Avenue in Woonsocket to the state line.
Physical Fabric Accomplishments
- Vandalism Removal: From contacting National Grid to remove sneakers hanging from phone lines marking known drug distribution zones to reporting and removing vandalism from local homes and parks, residents have been very engaged in taking action against local vandals. Neighborhood youth in particular, have taken this portion of our Contract very seriously, leading several vandalism removal projects including:
- A mural in the gazebo at Costa Park to prevent future gang and drug tagging in the spring of 2009.
- A hot summer day clean up later in 2009 with the Woonsocket Police Department, as well as the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, to remove additional vandalism from park walkways and benches.
- A youth-led mural project that paired feedback from local residents with designs from Riverzedge Arts and support from the Police Department and the Woonsocket Housing Authority to cover vandalism in Dunn Park during the summer of 2010.
- A new mural was resurrected at the Tyra Club on the corners of West and Olo Streets that celebrates the migration of African American families from the South to Woonsocket during the fifties and sixties. The mural was created by a local artist, Benny Harris, and was painted by community members in 2012.
- Protecting the Blackstone River: The three target neighborhoods share a distinct natural feature- the Blackstone River. Each year during April vacation, residents and partners like Riverzedge Arts, NWBRV, and the Blackstone Valley Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone, gather along the Blackstone River to clean up its banks and protect this valuable resource from pollution and run off. The 2010 clean up efforts resulted in over 80 tires being pulled from the River. Over 400 bags of trash and litter were also removed from around the neighborhoods as well as 1000 pounds of bulk trash.
Civic Engagement Accomplishments
- Trick-or-Treat so Others Can Eat: In October of 2008 and again in 2012, youth led a nonperishable food collection drive to support Family Resources Community Action’s (now the Community Care Alliance) Family Homeless Shelter on Sayles St. in Woonsocket. Instead of trick-or-treating for candy, the youth gathered their peers, siblings, and parents to collect over 200 nonperishable food items that they then donated to those in need.
- Community Bus Tours: This project, sponsored by the Woonsocket After School Coalition (WASC), provides YMCA buses for community resource tours held throughout the fall and winter months. Over five tours have occurred since 2009, taking community stakeholders such as local police officers and school teachers to area nonprofits and community resources to help familiarize those on the front lines with the resources available to Woonsocket families.
- Voter Registration Drives: In 2012, the Black Initiative Group (BIG) sponsored a successful voter registration drive. The group canvassed the neighborhood and registered about 120 new voters in the City of Woonsocket.
Lifelong Learning Accomplishments
- Promise Neighborhoods: Partners in education such as Connecting for Children and Families, Family Resources Community Action (now the Community Care Alliance), and NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley applied for Round 1 funding of this federal program encouraging neighbor-level school reform. Their application ranked in the top 15% of all submissions and the coalition planned to apply again when funding becomes available.
- Expanding Learning Opportunities: Expanding learning opportunities for City youth who don’t fit into a conventional learning model became a priority early on for after school providers and the School Department. They applied for and received funding to research and implement an Expanded Learning Opportunities program that allows high school students to earn traditional credits in nontraditional settings. The project, lead by Riverzedge Arts, continues to connect students with service learning and hands-on experiences to help them earn credits.
- Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI): The initiative offers in-depth leadership training to 25 parents, guardians, grandparents, and community members who care for and love children. The Institute offers a stimulating program, which boosts parent leadership skills to address issues such as accessible child and health services, quality and accountability in education, neighborhood safety, and many more. Parent leaders become strong voices for the next generation. The classes, coordinated by Riverzedge Arts, began in January of 2013 and were held at NWBRV’s C3 Center.
- Nightly NeighborWalks: During the summer of 2011 and 2012, dozens of residents gathered each weeknight to walk the target neighborhoods for at least 20 minutes. The project, sponsored by Thundermist Health Center in partnership with NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, helped build relationships among residents while encouraging a healthier, more active lifestyle.
- Health Care Committee: The health section of the Contract, in itself, was a testament to the power of this process. At the Give Back meeting in 2009, residents and partners in healthcare recognized interview concerns about substance abuse, mental health, and the possibility of the City’s community hospital closing and decided to take action. Healthcare providers and those passionate about the health of the community began meeting regularly to talk about how to better promote services, address community needs and serve the community. This group has helped facilitate data sharing between the community hospital, Landmark Medical Center, and the community health center, Thundermist Health Center as well as wellness programs for seniors and women led by the YWCA and much more. They continue to push the Contract forward, championing causes in healthcare.
- Obesity Prevention: Thundermist has partnered with the School Department and after school providers from across the City to implement an obesity prevention program targeting youth. The effort, called Thunder Kids, has helped over 50 youth lose weight and live healthier, more active lives.
- Dunn Park Mural Project: The Police and Community Together (PACT) coalition of Police, nonprofit, religious, and resident members used an Early Action grant from NWBRV and LISC to create a community-inspired mural that will cover a frequently vandalized wall at Dunn Park in Fairmount. Local youth from RiverzEdge Arts were employed in the design, painting, and resident engagement process for the mural. The project spurred other initiatives such as the GRIP and Tip (vandalism tipline and reward system for police tips resulting in arrests) and a Removal Incentive (Lowe’s donated $5 coupons for victims of vandalism to encourage repairs to homes damaged by graffiti tagging).
- Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED): Sponsored by LISC, the Woonsocket Police Department, local residents and nonprofit groups attended a training from August 31-September 2, 2010 to learn about how to implement a CPTED strategy in Woonsocket. Preliminary assessments were made at Costa Park and downtown by the Train Depot and the Police Department continues to offer free assessments to businesses and homeowners interested in what changes they can make to their physical environment that will discourage negative behavior around their property.
- Citizens Police Academy: The Woonsocket Police Department held a series of three lectures/demonstrations and individual ride-alongs in the fall of 2010 with about 25 residents from across the City to increase awareness of the Department’s activities and to encourage citizen participation in the City’s crime prevention efforts.