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A group of residents in the 46807 zip code launch a grassroots effort to highlight and improve the area’s strengths
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Fort Wayne’s 46807 zip code covers a lot of ground.
Bordered by, roughly speaking, Creighton on the North; Tillman on the South; Calhoun on the East; and the St Mary’s on the West, the area boasts a lot of history. For about the first half of the 20th century, that’s basically where people lived in Fort Wayne, no matter what your “station in life,” as they say.
And 46807 is still a densely populated, diverse area that encompasses 17 different neighborhoods with a lot of character. “It’s a very charming, diverse area,” says Miriam Morgan, who bought a house in the 46807 area with her family about two years ago. “The home we picked was built in 1926, with all its original hardwood floors, all of the charm you get from an older home, and it’s in an area where everyone kind of values that.”
Morgan is one of many individuals who are part of an effort to highlight and improve the many assets of the ’07 area. The mission is to identify those assets and, through grants and other resources, help secure funding to help make those different ideas a reality.
The initiative really got off the ground earlier this year, but the impetus behind it came about in 2009, when Pathfinder Services Inc. indicated to several Fort Wayne entities that they were interested in neighborhood improvement through resident engagement in
targeted areas of the city.
That same year, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation awarded the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development (IACED) a grant for a Comprehensive Community Economic Development (CCED) Demonstration Program in Elkhart and Allen counties.
In February 2010, IACED announced that Pathfinder Community Connections, the community development division of Pathfinder Services, had been chosen. Pathfinder proposed to implement the quality of life planning process in the 46807 ZIP code,.
Angie Harrison, the chair of the 46807 steering committee, explains: “Essentially, it’s intended to be a bit of a grassroots effort for communities that still have a lot of heart, a lot of assets, a lot of history, but tend to also be, at some level, at risk. This particular section of the city was selected because of the value and assets it has, but also because there’s that re-investment that can help propel it into the future.”
Harrison used the word “grassroots” above, and the people behind the initiative emphasize that this really is a community-driven effort. At a series of open summit meetings beginning earlier this year, as well as what’s called an “appreciative inquiry” survey, residents identified what they valued about their community, and what they would like to see more of. Miriam Morgan explains that with the “appreciative inquiry” survey, the focus remains on the positive. “We ask people to identify what they love about their neighborhoods,” she says. “Instead of asking ‘what’s wrong and how can we fix it?’, we ask ‘what do you like and how can we build on that?’”
The things that emerged from those two efforts range from people who want to better understand how you take care of older homes to a kayak landing in Foster park. “With the older homes, for example,” says Angie Harrison. “You talk to a lot of people around the city, and they say ‘I love the older homes; I just don’t know how to take care of it.’ How can we help people with that? So there’s a group that’s been formed around that, talking about how to maintain your home, how to do repairs yourself, or who to go to if there are certain types of repairs that require someone with a little more specialty knowledge.”
Harrison sites another group that is interested in urban gardens, and others interested in various revitalization projects happening in some of the area’s major corridors like Fairfield Broadway, and Calhoun.
“We’re starting to see leaders emerging to support various projects and groups,” adds Morgan. “The ‘07 initiative is helping to coordinate that, giving them a voice by using Facebook and other avenues.”
Currently, the 46807 initiative is completing a Quality of Life Plan (required as part of the funding) that will make it easier to apply for grants and funding to support the various projects happening in the area. “The various workgroups and neighborhood associations and others with vested interest in the area have all filled out work plans detailing the projects,” Morgan says. “But what the ’07 initiative does is it makes everyone’s voice a little bit louder. That’s what this quality of life document will offer them.”
“The purpose of the document is to encapsulate all of the history, values, assets, and vision as part of our future,” Harrison adds. “Then we have some projects and work plans that we are able to use as a catalyst to attract other support and funding into our community to support whatever those efforts might be.”
Harrison singles out John Steinbach for special credit. Another member of the ’07 initiative, and a resident of the area, Steinbach has been instrumental in facilitating the open summits and “appreciative inquiry” efforts — it’s basically what he does for a living, professionally, for large companies elsewhere in the country. But Steinbach, like all the people involved, is lending his talents as a volunteer. “No one is getting paid for any of this,” Harrison says. “We’re doing it because we love our neighborhoods and we want to see good things continue to happen.”
For more on the 46807 initiative, visit their site at lovefortwayne46807.com and on Facebook.