Richmond, California, a city with a large low-income population, including many black and Latino residents, was disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis. This resulted in a large number of abandoned homes. Pervasive illegal dumping compounded the challenges, making blighted properties a significant problem for the city.
Through the Cities of Service Love Your Block program, Richmond awarded mini-grants to community groups to address blight in their neighborhoods. The city incorporated Love Your Block into an updated service plan, created by the city’s chief service officer. Cities of Service Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members created the Richmond Tool Library with additional funding from the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission and nonprofit partners, which made it easier for residents to beautify and revitalize their neighborhoods with free access to tools.
The city awarded 43 mini-grants to community groups with support from Cities of Service and Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members. Nearly 1,000 citizen volunteers participated in a variety of neighborhood revitalization projects.
- Residents removed nearly half a million pounds of litter from 53 parks and vacant lots.
- In the third year of the program, the city awarded grants to two community groups in North Richmond and Parchester to continue and expand successful initiatives through which residents cleaned up the neighborhoods.
- In North Richmond, Rancho Market & Deli was transformed from a corner store plagued by vandalism and occasional violence to a community hub. A local artist worked with community volunteers to paint a mural on the market, and hundreds of residents showed up to help paint and celebrate the mural. The city worked with local artist Richard Muro Salazar to obtain funding from Richmond Arts & Culture Commission. The Rancho Market mural, called “The Fabric of Unity,” is now one of several in North Richmond created with mini-grant funds in coordination with the city. With these projects, Love Your Block helped start a public art movement in North Richmond, inspiring other artists and community members.
- Community members in Parchester coordinated cleanups to train teenagers as Love Your Block ambassadors. To complement the work, they invited the Parchester Community Center, SeQuential Biodiesel Fuel, and Republic Services to conduct educational workshops on volunteerism, reusable energy, and recycling.
- The City of Richmond has received more than $200,000 in additional funding from other sources to continue Love Your Block. The city also hired two former Cities of Service Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members, Guadalupe Morales and Stephanie Ny. Stephanie now leads the city’s current Love Your Block efforts.
Keys to Success
City staff and Cities of Service Love Your Block AmeriCorps VISTA members worked with partner organizations to raise additional funding and recruit and organize volunteers.
- The city created the Resident Leaders program with North Richmond Mitigation Fee funding, providing stipends for individuals to learn project management and organizing skills and to assist them in the development of neighborhood beautification projects.
- The city hired a member of the North Richmond community as one of four Resident Leaders who spoke both English and Spanish and who took the lead on engaging the growing Spanish-speaking population in North Richmond, which the city has struggled to reach in the past.
- Richmond leveraged its Love Your Block grant for significant in-kind contributions from Home Depot, Kelly-Moore Paints, and the Lumber Yard. Additional funding for mini-grants came from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.
“We don’t have all the resources. We help each other out—that’s community building.”