In 2015, Cities of Service launched its first City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA Love Your Block program in six cities to help them work with residents to revitalize neighborhoods, one block at a time.
Cities of Service provided technical assistance and funding in the amount of $30,000 over three years and placed two AmeriCorps VISTA members in each city. In addition to the Love Your Block projects, cities created city-wide service plans to help them better coordinate and increase the impact of volunteer efforts.
Each participating city identified a challenge in a low-income community that they hoped to address through Love Your Block. These included a large number of abandoned properties that had become havens for illegal activity; vacant lots that were dumping grounds and environmental hazards; too few safe spaces for children to play; graffiti that marred property and made residents feel unsafe; and a lack of green spaces, such as community gardens, parks, and trees.
The Cities of Service Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members assisted with the coordination of the program and reached out to traditionally underrepresented groups to ensure that their voices were heard and concerns addressed during the planning and implementation process.
With guidance and support from Cities of Service, the six cities provided more than 180 mini-grants, engaging more than 5,500 volunteers to revitalize their neighborhoods. Community groups removed over 600,000 pounds of litter from parks and vacant lots and installed 300 public art displays.
An Urban Institute study conducted in three participating cities found that Love Your Block created important connections between neighbors and between city staff and residents. These relationships grew citizens’ investment in their neighborhoods and increased the capacity of communities to take collective action. Participants felt empowered to reach out to city officials about issues beyond Love Your Block and to plan additional projects that improved their neighborhoods.
The six cities provided more than 180 mini-grants, engaging more than 5,500 volunteers to revitalize their neighborhoods. Community groups removed over 600,000 pounds of litter from parks and vacant lots, and installed 300 public art displays.
Cities also raised more than $500,000 in additional funds to expand the impact of the program and continue it after the grant period ended. In some cities, such as Boston and Lansing, new departments were created as a result of Love Your Block after citizens and city officials saw the enormous impact that citizen engagement can make on people’s lives and community vitality.
With City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA Love Your Block, Cities of Service has made an impact that will have a ripple effect for many years to come.