Dayton Daily News
By Cornelius Frolik
A major national player in charitable giving will contribute $8 million to support a new partnership focused on connecting assets and improving equity and educational and career outcomes in northwest Dayton.
“This is really about how do we accelerate all the work that’s happening and the good things that are happening” in northwest Dayton, said Kristina Scott, CEO of Learn to Earn, which is one of the partners on this new effort. “And we want to build a solid foundation so it can last for a lifetime.” Blue Meridian Partners, a national charitable organization, will provide a multiyear grant to the new Northwest Dayton Partnership, which consists of neighborhood associations, community groups, Dayton Public Schools, Learn to Earn, Preschool Promise, Phoenix Next, the city of Dayton, the Dayton Foundation and others.
Some grant funding will be distributed to deeply connected but historically under-resourced organizations in northwest Dayton to help build “civic infrastructure,” Scott said, while some money will be used to bring best practices and technical assistance to the area.
Using community input, the partnership will identify impactful programs, projects and collaborations between stakeholders, Scott said.
The goal is to fund two-generation, neighborhood-based supports that result in racial and economic equity, like investments in early childhood education, quality K-12 schools and wraparound services for the kids and their families, Scott said.
“In some ways, we are the pipe-fitters, making sure that systems work together and so there are hand-offs between pre-K to K-12, from high school to college,” she said. “But we’re also making sure that we have the supports in place for the community to keep working together.”
The partnership wants to strengthen and expand the capacity of organizations that are doing important work, such as Black-led, community-based nonprofits, supporters said.
A variety of plans focused on northwest Dayton have been developed, but these plans and their recommended action items need coordination to get the best results, officials said.
Blue Meridian Partners is a philanthropic organization that invests in communities around the country with place-based partnerships that improve economic and social mobility, said Jim Shelton, chief investment and impact officer with the group.
The Northwest Dayton Partnership will develop a sustainable plan for improving opportunities through comprehensive and generational work, he said.
Blue Meridian has invested about $95 million into place-based partnerships in about a dozen U.S. communities, including Louisville, Kentucky; Oakland, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Salt Lake City; and Dallas.
Dayton was awarded grant funding because of the impressive work local stakeholders have done to invest in their community and work together on shared plans aimed at creating pathways to success for kids living in poverty, Shelton said.
He also noted that Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, is sharing best practices and providing technical assistance and other kinds of support to Dayton and other grant recipients.
Northwest Dayton has seen millions of dollars of new investment, including the Gem City Market on Salem Avenue and the new Northwest Dayton Library on Philadelphia Drive.
Omega Community Development Corp. broke ground last year on the $11.1 million Hope Center for Families project, which is expected to open this fall. The center is being built on the former United Theological Seminary campus on the 1800 block of Harvard Boulevard. The organization is expected to be one of the participants in the Northwest Dayton Partnership.
The Omega Senior Lofts, a 81-unit senior housing development on the 1400 block of Cornell Drive, is open and fully leased, said Vanessa Ward, president of Omega CDC.
“I stand here in awe of what can happen when people work together with a purpose and a vision to make a difference in the community,” she said.
The Hope Center seeks to reduce poverty in northwest Dayton, which is home to more than 30,000 residents.
The center has partnered with Dayton Children’s Hospital to offer pediatric care and Sinclair Community College to offer adult educational services, Ward said.
This grant is a “once-in-a-lifetime gift to align and leverage resources to make a difference in the lives of kids and families in northwest Dayton,” said Mike Parks, president of the Dayton Foundation, which will serve as the fiscal agent for the partnership.