Carolyn Saxton

Carolyn Saxton

It’s a new year. Time for resolutions. Some of us resolve to engage in activities to further our health. Others of us resolve to take classes to expand our minds. Regardless of the resolution, we all want to do or be something better than what we have been.

At Legacy Foundation, we are resolving to work even harder at transforming Lake County through philanthropy. We plan to meet that resolution by engaging community members in a process to develop plans to strengthen their neighborhoods. And this is a resolution we will not break.

You may have read about Neighborhood Spotlight, a Legacy initiative. Launched in 2014, Legacy hosted trainings for 11 Lake County communities which were provided by the Indiana Association of Community Economic Development. Two communities — Hobart and Gary/Miller — were selected for more intensive work.

Over 2015, community builders in these two communities will be hired to convene meetings in each area to gather information on visions for the neighborhood. The goal is to have the entire community engaged in developing plans they would like to see implemented to improve their neighborhood.

Regardless of age, economic status, physical ability or race/ethnicity, everyone in the community will have a seat at the table. And it is important for everyone to take that seat to have a voice in the decision-making process. Legacy wants all voices heard, so watch and listen for news of when meetings might be held.

I was recently in Oakland, Calif., as part of a Funders Network meeting that focused on small industrial cities. We toured neighborhoods to look at how they were taking steps to transform their areas. One had developed an arts/cultural center that had become the centerpiece of the neighborhood, hosting multi-cultural events (17 ethnic groups represented), classes and art activities. In that same block was a child care center and a site for affordable housing. A bus rapid transit service was also in the works. Another neighborhood had a historical museum documenting the “Rosies” during World War II who relocated there from the South for manufacturing jobs. The historical museum was the gathering place for the residents and one around which the houses were centered.

What struck me about this tour was the focus on multi-cultural activities, but also the role that a designated arts or cultural center played in re-establishing a neighborhood and creating a tangible sense of place. Were any of these neighborhoods finished with their plans? No, but they had taken steps forward to begin the transformation.

Neighborhood Spotlight has the opportunity to transform Lake County, neighborhood by neighborhood. But it won’t be successful without the diverse input each and every one who lives or works in the neighborhood can provide.

Legacy Foundation is placing its philanthropic support behind Neighborhood Spotlight and is securing additional funding from other sources.

We need your involvement as a funder or a voice. On Friday Jan. 30, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Legacy is hosting a Neighborhood Spotlight informational session at the Electrical Workers Union Hall (IBEW), 7200 Mississippi St. Suite 200, Merrillville. Bring your neighbors and friends to learn more about how your neighborhood can be transformed. Let’s resolve to work together to transform Lake County.

Carolyn Saxton is president of Legacy Foundation. The opinions are the writer’s.

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Porter/LaPorte County Editor

Porter/LaPorte Editor Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.