Love Your Block brings mayors together with citizens to revitalize their neighborhoods, one block at a time. From painting over graffiti with colorful murals to banishing trash from playgrounds, citizen volunteers are combating urban blight and making their blocks better places to live.
For its 2018 City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA Love Your Block program, Cities of Service awarded each winning city $25,000 to be used for mini-grants and resources to support the efforts of citizen groups and local nonprofits to fight property blight through home repairs, lot transformations, and community cleanups. In addition, two AmeriCorps VISTA members serve in each winning city’s city hall to build capacity and raise awareness. The program is made possible with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
A recent study by the Urban Institute found that the connection that Love Your Block forges between city leaders and citizens at the neighborhood level can be one of the most important catalysts for collective action by neighborhood residents. This connection between city officials and citizens boosts the social capital exercised by citizens who plan and implement Love Your Block projects and strengthens social cohesion. Love Your Block volunteers believe their efforts also positively influence public safety and community ownership of public spaces.
Resident volunteers and local students apply mulch to green spaces along Bailey Avenue in Buffalo, New York, as part of the city’s Love Your Block program. The program empowers residents and deters criminal behavior through environmental design. Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members recruited high school students to volunteer and encouraged intergenerational connections between Buffalo residents. Together, volunteers of all ages revamped community spaces by incorporating street lights, murals, benches, and signage in high-traffic areas.
A resident volunteer mows a neighbor’s lawn during a community cleanup in Gary, Indiana, as part of the city’s Love Your Block program The city’s AmeriCorps VISTA members created a tool lending library to assist residents with activities like shoveling snow and mowing grass. Community members regularly use equipment from the Gary Tool Library to complete cleanup events that engage youth block clubs and encourage intergenerational relationships.
A volunteer presses freshly displaced dirt around a shrub he planted in a neighbor’s front yard in the Armondale neighborhood in Hamilton, Ohio, as part of the city’s Love Your Block program. This project is a part of a neighbor-to-neighbor nomination program that brings property owners together to complete exterior home improvements. Hamilton residents volunteered to complete landscaping projects, minor home repairs, and facade improvements, which have created social connections and are inspiring reinvestment in neighborhoods.
In Hartford, Connecticut, community members paint the sky in a mural that will read, “We are the future. Somos familia,” as part of the city’s Love Your Block program. The Wolcott Street Mural is located in the Frog Hollow neighborhood, which has one of Hartford’s highest concentrations of blighted residential properties. To combat blight, residents and AmeriCorps VISTA members participating in the Love Your Block program organized community clean-up projects and vacant lot remediation events.
Volunteers remove bricks laid in the road verge to before installing a raised garden bed in Huntington, West Virginia’s West End neighborhood. The group also planted bee pollinators in the garden space at The Wild Ramp, a non-profit farmers market and community hub. With Love Your Block, residents used beautification and creative placemaking to promote neighborhood cohesion.
In preparation for “Hope for Howard,” residents arrange plants along Howard Avenue in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as part of the city’s Love Your Block program. This planting event was accompanied by additional Love Your Block projects focused on facade improvement and litter removal along Howard Avenue and surrounding streets. The city targeted this area for Love Your Block because of the high concentration of vacant lots and blighted historic homes. In the last year, volunteers have completed nearly 50 facade improvements and removed more than 1,100 pounds of trash and debris.
Community members paint a newly-constructed fence in the Walnut Hill Garden and Pocket Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as part of the city’s Love Your Block program. Volunteers also cleared the garden of over 500 pounds of litter, removed a broken down fence, cut back overgrown weeds, and installed five new raised garden beds. In partnership with the Strong Neighbors Initiative, Love Your Block focused on vacant lot remediation and community cleanup efforts throughout the year.
(Left) Amina Hylton, Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA member, organizes supplies for a neighborhood cleanup in Newark, New Jersey. (Right) Residents remove an invasive tree from the community as part of the program, boosting the local ecosystem. Amina and her fellow AmeriCorps VISTA member, Diana Negron, organized resident volunteers to conduct vacant lot remediation, park improvements, and minor home repairs.
Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond hosts a mural painting event as part of the city’s Love Your Block program. The mural serves as a reminder of empowerment and community togetherness. The long-term objective of Love Your Block in Richmond, Virginia, is to improve social cohesion among residents who typically spend little to no time together. The mural project was an opportunity for neighbors to spend a day together, working towards a common goal. The Phaup Street building now reads, “I have a voice.”
A neighborhood resident repairs the exterior trim of a house belonging to a senior citizen in South Bend, Indiana, as part of the city’s Love Your Block program. Leading in Neighborhood Connections group (LINC) organized residents around the need for small-scale home repairs. Volunteers completed energy efficiency improvements and minor home repairs. The program also connected senior homeowners with the younger generation in South Bend, who worked on the repair projects.
Cities of Service launched the first City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA program in 2015 in Birmingham, Alabama; Boston, Massachusetts; Lansing, Michigan; Phoenix, Arizona; Richmond, California; and Seattle, Washington.
Since 2009, Cities of Service has helped dozens of cities implement Love Your Block. More than 9,000 community members have revitalized more than 2,200 blocks, including removing 5.6 million pounds of trash, creating 900 art displays, cleaning 60,000 square feet of graffiti, repairing over 70,000 square feet of community space, and maintaining over 730,000 square feet of public space.
Love Your Block is so successful that additional coalition cities have chosen to implement the Love Your Block Blueprint on their own, without grant funding from Cities of Service.