Metro West’s first membership drive kicks off at annual celebration

PHOTO BY RACHEL NAPOLITANO Thursday, February 1, 2018; Metro West Annual Celebration, Menlo Park Academy, 2149 W. 53rd Street: (L-R) Mayele Ngemba and Victoire Pilipili. Mayele Ngemba holds the Community Champion award. He received the award for organizing the first International Village Festival in September 2017.

by Rachel Napolitano

(Plain Press, March 2018)     At Metro West’s annual celebration, amid the awards and annual address of accomplishments, the organization serving Brooklyn Centre, Clark-Metro, and Stockyard neighborhoods announced it has become its own independent non-profit organization.

Keisha Gonzàlez, Metro West Community Development Office’s managing director, announced that through March 31st, 2108, Metro West will be registering residents to become the first members of the organization.  The members of Metro West will then elect a board later this year.

Prior to this transition, the Metro West office was a satellite of the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Office (DSCDO). As part of DSCDO, Metro West had an advisory board, but not its own trustees. In this transition, there is an interim board of 3 members awaiting the upcoming election of a new board of trustees after the agency’s first membership drive.

Metro West is drafting a code of regulations and will have a call for nominations for board seats. Learn how to become a member by calling Metro West at 216-961-9073.

Speaking to those gathered at the annual celebration, Gonzàlez expressed much pride in the agency’s economic development plans, including 59 market-rate apartments at the former J. Spang Baking Company on Barber Avenue. She also stated the La Placita open air summer market welcomed 3,000 guests in its 3rd year, supporting 20 start-up entrepreneurs, and sharing 10 musical performances of various Latin styles, dance, and visual art. Next up in the La Villa Hispana project is a micro-retail incubator called El Mercado at the former H.J. Weber Building on West 25th Street.

Gonzàlez stressed that Metro West’s intervention in 28 distressed homes and properties resulted in a savings of $280,000 to the public, by diverting those homes from eventual demolition. Rather, the intervention attracted $720,000 in private investment as 46% of the 28 homes saved from demolition were bought and rehabbed by owner-occupants.

The Metro West annual report distributed at the meeting, says nearly 2,000 exterior home inspections occurred, resulting in 60 housing court cases attended by staff, and just over 1,000 houses cited with code violations. Metro West staff helped 47% of those cited with code violations to achieve compliance.

Gonzàlez is looking forward to the upcoming transformation of the former YMCA building in Brooklyn Centre into permanent supportive housing. The permanent supportive housing is part of the Housing First Initiative, a program of Enterprise Partners to prioritize secure housing for people experiencing homelessness, along with other social and psychological supports.

With nearly every seat taken, the sociable crowd of the Metro West Annual Celebration held on February 1st at Menlo Park Academy on W. 53, enjoyed the tunes of Victor Samalot. and his guitar playing.

Guests dined on a variety of regional empanadas and a vegetarian specialty.  All of the empanadas were provided by Half Moon Bakery, a woman-owned catering business launched at a storefront across from MetroHealth hospital on West 25th. Half Moon Bakery’s owners explain to curious guests that the name of their business comes from the shape of the Latin bakery, stuffed with seasoned meat and veggies. Desserts were provided by Las Villas Deli and Pastries at 3466 West 41st Street.

The celebration concluded with an awards presentation.

Judge Ron O’Leary of Cleveland Municipal Court presented the Beautiful Home Award to Nitza and José Rosario who used Model Block funding to thoughtfully rehab the home’s exterior, according to Kris Harsh, Metro West housing director.

The Partner of the Year Award was given to Alpha Village. The group completed two hundred painting jobs for residents of the area between W. 46th and W. 48th streets this summer, with 40 volunteers, free of charge. Alpha Village mobilizes volunteers and resources (including thousands of coats for residents, especially those newly arrived from Puerto Rico) from the parish at St. Ambrose Church in Brunswick (Medina County), Ohio.

Additional award winners are: Community Champions: June Statham, Kyro Taylor and Mayele Ngemba; Neighborhood Business: Castro’s Hardware;  Green Thumb: Cleveland Roots; Community Spirit: POPCE Neighborhood Center (outreach of Prince of Peace); and Community Vibrancy: Art House, Inc.

Accepting the Community Spirit Award for POPCE, Pastor Gordon Martin says he encourages grassroots groups and considers himself “a catalyst” for others to organize groups they are interested in, like crochet, video gaming, even basketball games are in the works, amid the existing computer lab, food pantry, and community garden.

Councilman Zone shared remarks and presented the awards that night with five of his colleagues who are all elected to represent the stakeholders of Metro West’s service area: Councilman Kerry McCormack (Ward 3), Councilman Tony Brancatelli (Ward 12), Councilman Kevin Kelly (Ward 13), and Councilwoman Jasmin Santana (Ward 14).

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