IWU student Veronica Watson partnered with Mid Central Community Action and The West Bloomington Revitalization Project to request $500 to hold a block party for the West Bloomington residents. This will serve as a conclusion to NeighborWorks Week programming and a celebration of the beginning of summer. Materials from the Tool Library will be used to make this event happen. This block party allows residents to form stronger relationships with their neighbors while providing safe activities for kids. They hope to expand this program to have more residents-lead developments.
Category Archives: West Bloomington Revitalization Project
Name: Veronica Watson
Year of graduation: May 2014
Major(s): International Studies, Diplomatic Studies Concentration
Community Partner: WBRP & MCCA
Veronica Watson’s Reflection:
My project started after I started attending some of the meetings for the West Bloomington Housing Collaborative. The Housing Collaborative is made up of the WBRP, MCCA, Habitat for Humanity, and a few other community stakeholders, who all worked together to win a $1.5 million grant for revitalizing West Bloomington neighborhood. The grant money is specifically meant for building or improving homes, in an attempt to bring more homeowners to the area. However, the housing market in this neighborhood is not the only issue that needs to be addressed, so the Housing Collaborative would like to consider other projects that help with the neighborhood revitalization. In order to help tie any future projects to the current housing projects, Collaborative members want a community identity or “brand” that all of the projects could work under.
With this in mind, I was tasked with holding focus groups in West Bloomington for local residents to voice their opinions on a possible community identity. This would give Collaborative organizations more of a framework to work under in the community, and it would give community members the chance to be more a part of the revitalization efforts. I held 3 focus groups at Eric’s Restaurant, and 1 at MCCA; each was attended by 2-4 local residents. While some ideas for a community identity were discussed at these focus groups, mostly residents took these groups as an opportunity to talk about their concerns for the community. Topics like crime, lack of activities for kids, and lack of diverse businesses were all things that residents wanted Collaborative organizations to know about and help address.
Maybe this project didn’t accomplish what it was supposed to in terms of identifying a community brand, but I think it was incredibly useful as a reminder to Collaborative members that there are major issues in West Bloomington besides housing. More importantly, I think these groups show how much residents care about West Bloomington, and how willing they would be help with its revitalization, if someone took the time to show them exactly how they can be more involved.
Political Science major, Nicole Jovicevic (’16), chose to help the West Bloomington Revitalization Project for her Fall Action Research Seminar Project. The WBRP has a housing initiative focused on home improvement projects. In order to attract more applicants for this initiative and to create a visually stimulating overview for the current investors, Nicole collected the information needed to create two pamphlets. This included conducting several interviews and using various Adobe applications to create the product. Overall, this product will help advertising initiatives for the housing initiative in West Bloomington, and encourage future investors to give to the WBRP.
As her project for the Fall Action Research Seminar, Sarah Bergman (’15), a Political Science major, explored the digital divide in Bloomington. By partnering with Bloomington School District 87, she researched student access to the Internet in by surveying District 87 teachers. The choice to survey teachers was made because of their firsthand experience with the effects of the digital divide on students. In addition to Deborah Halperin’s assistance, she worked with two members of the District 87 administration, Dr. Barry Reilly (Superintendent) and Cindy Helmers (Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction). Both shared their ideas and thoughts on the matter, and they distributed the survey to the teachers. At the end, Sarah plans to analyze the data and create a report for the district to use. Little research exists on the digital divide in the local community, so this project will hopefully help people in the future that are interested in the issue.
Lexia Swope, a Psychology and Sociology double major from Springfield, IL, participated in the Action Research Seminar in the fall of 2013. In this class, she created a health and wellness program for girls at the Bloomington-Normal Boys and Girls Club. The goal of the program was to promote and teach the girls to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Throughout the semester, the group met once a week and learned how to properly warm up, stretch, and exercise, as well as learning various anatomy and nutrition facts. Different activities were also incorporated, like hula hooping and cheerleading, but the main focus was on the sport of track and field.
A short reflection by Lexi:
Having the opportunity to create and participate in this program was definitely one of the best experiences of my college career. Although it was challenging at times, I think the program was definitely a success and that the girls really benefitted from. My main advice for running a program would be to plan everything out in advance and communicate well with the staff so that you can have adequate space and supplies to do what you had planned.
As her project for the Fall Action Research Seminar, Psychology major Natalie Weimer (’16) partnered with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project to create a manual for hosting the Walk In Bike Out event that Rick Heiser currently hosts.
“In an attempt to combine my passion for bikes with the revitalization efforts targeted at the Westside, I decided to take a closer look at the Walk In Bike Out event. This annual event originally came out of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP) and is currently run by a team of dedicated and skilled volunteers, notably led by bike guru and Bloomington citizen Rick Heiser.
My project consisted of conducting interviews, collecting information and writing an event manual for the Walk In Bike Out event. I worked closely with Rick Heiser and four other community members who have been involved with various aspects of the event. The manual is intended to serve many purposes: to be a guide for someone planning the event, to evaluate the current progress of the event, to offer suggestions for expanding bike service to the Westside, and to serve as a testament to the event’s remarkable success.”
During the Fall Seminar of 2012, senior students Daniel McGuire and Cameron Blossom developed Facebook pages for two West side business owners, while also training them on how to work the page. Daniel McGuire worked with Market St. Bakery (the best donuts and pastries in town), and Cameron Blossom worked on Eric’s Restaurant’s page. Daniel was able to build a Facebook page for Pat Elleson, the owner of Market Street Bakery, and now she has over 300 likes! Click here to see here page. Pat Elleson has now taken full ownership of her page and regularly posts pictures of her donuts and other things about her bakery.
Cameron grew Eric’s following on Facebook from 80 likes to over 500, while also developing new social media promotions and interactions on the Facebook page. Eric Trujillo on the project, “it was great to have Cameron work on my Facebook page and teach me how to operate it. I can now communicate with my customers online, and promote my restaurant without spending money on other advertising.” You can visit Eric’s page by clicking here!
2013 Weir Fellows, Dave McGrath and Nettie Rauch worked with West Bloomington Revitalization Project to start an annual Westside 5K. Dave ’14, a risk management major from Wheaton, IL, and Nettie ’14, a Hispanic Studies and Sociology major from Shoreview, Minnesota, are both members of the cross country team and mobilized their teammates in many capacities to make the event successful. Both Dave and Nettie served as Summer 2013 Interns as well!
The Westside 5K Run/Walk is a fun and healthy way to promote wellness within our community. The route highlights some of West Bloomington’s businesses and non-for-profit organizations. A portion of proceeds benefited select West Bloomington non-for-profits.
In 2013, the race had 140 participants and raised just over $2,100 for WBRP and other nonprofits. The nonprofits Dave and Nettie worked with included Milestones Early Learning Center, Mid Central Community Action, YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, Western Avenue Community Center and Habitat ReStore.
State Farm: I worked in multicultural business development doing research on Hispanic, African American, and LGBT markets. The research will be used to show the business opportunity and need for an updated marketing strategy for these markets. I also did some work with public affairs to develop a self-assessment tool for nonprofits to use to evaluate the strength of their management and gathered resources to help them once they discover their strengths and weaknesses.
Community: I worked at the West Bloomington Revitalization Project as the volunteer coordinator. I created materials such as a consolidated list of volunteer opportunities and a volunteer manual. I also conducted a survey of west Bloomington residents to assess what those who live in the area see as the assets and needs of the community.
Grant: This summer, residents of West Bloomington made the West Bloomington Revitalization Project aware of the types of the events they would like to attend in the community through survey administered by our organization. To our surprise, “live music events” was the most popular answer. The community also expressed a strong desire for family-friendly events and events for children. Each October, the West Bloomington Revitalization Project hosts the Harvest Festival in the Community Garden. This event has been well attended and positively reviewed for the past five years. In order to address the wants of our community and grow the event, the $500 will be used to bring a local band and ice cream from Carl’s Ice Cream to the festival. The event will be planned by a student in the Action Research Seminar at Illinois Wesleyan University and students participating in Alternative Fall Break will volunteer to help carry out the event.
Message from Nettie- “A huge thank you to everyone at state farm and in the community who helped make this opportunity possible and who added to my incredible experience this summer.”
Zoe Gross graduated from IWU with a degree in Political Science. She is now in law school at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.
Zoe worked for ARC in the summer of 2012 as an Assistant Coordinator. She helped to support the work of the Community Partnership Program interns. She also worked on the Veggie Van project to help bring fresh fruits and vegetables into the food desert of West Bloomington (http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas.aspx#.UiYZlzakoY4). She harvested fresh produce from the IWU Peace Garden (please link) and delivered peppers, tomatoes, and herbs to the Western Avenue Community Center food pantry.
Zoe was also enrolled in the Dr. Michael Weis’ history class that participated in a unique community engagement project. Each student was given a Flip video camera and paired with a local senior citizen. Students were asked to meet with their senior partner three times over the course of the semester and talk about the events happening that were being covered in class. This co-curricular project was of great value to the student as they learned first-hand about historical events and the local impact of some national happenings. The seniors also enjoyed the project as they were able to connect with students and share stories in a meaningful way. The end of the semester wrapped up with a reception at the McLean County Museum of History where the students entered transcripts of their interviews into the museum archives. A copy of the transcript was also given to the senior to share with her/his family and friends. Zoe was paired with a local senior named Pud and they continued to be connected long after the class wrapped up.
Zoe also took the ARC Grant Writing class. She wrote a mini grant for the West Bloomington Revitalization Project to start their own adopt-a-pot program (http://www.downtownbloomington.org/22/36/40.html). Zoe also wrote a grant to the McLean County Wellness Coalition (bnhealthy.org) to support greening efforts on the Westside.
Zoe was also an active member of the College Democrats, Res Publica, and she was an assistant for the Political Science lab. She was also active in her sorority, Sigma Kappa.
Here is Zoe on her ARC experience - “ARC has provided me with the tools, connections, and confidence to enter the Bloomington-Normal community like never before. Until this summer, I felt I was merely a student living at Illinois Wesleyan; Now, I am a community member engaged in life in our city. Working with ARC has given me the ability to put in motion projects to change lives in Bloomington-Normal, as well as experience to take with me to my future home.”
Cameron, a Business Adminstration major from Flanagan, IL participated in the CPP Program in the summer of 2012. Cameron worked in the Human Resources-Employment Activities department at State Farm and at the West Bloomington Revitalization Project(WBRP). At the WBRP, he worked to develop relationships with Westside businesses by interviewing business owners to discover their needs and the positive aspects of the culturally diverse Westside of Bloomington. He developed a promotional project entitled West Bloomington Small Business Photo Gallery that is a photographic exhibit of all the businesses he worked with. Cameron also delivered a presentation of his findings to those who are involved in the economic revitalization of the Westside, including a number of business owners and city officials. After the CPP Program, Cameron explored the application of social media to better market Westside businesses.At State Farm, Cameron worked on various events across the community and organized an alumni event at State Farm as well as a renter’s insurance workshop.