Inspiring neighborhood engagement

CoraLyn Turentine, director of neighborhood engagement at United Way supported John H. Boner Community Center, is sensitive to the “softer” successes. 

CoraLyn says, “when it comes to community development, it is easier (in some ways) to put in a new pocket park or construct a building because you have visible and tangible markers of progress. People development is not so simple. People are easily discouraged by the tiniest of obstacles. They have to continually be inspired and rejuvenated to stick with it, and you don’t get a product that you can work with, hold and see. Convincing people that it is necessary and worthwhile to go the extra mile to encourage community and civic engagement is not easy.  Inspiring them to stick with it is not easy.”

And yet, after several months, neighbors and community members on the Near Eastside
have been meeting around the theme of minority engagement. The newly developed Near Eastside Diversity and Inclusion Task Force seeks to increase awareness of, participation with, and support of under-represented people, groups, minority assets and community services in the neighborhood. It also serves to facilitate relationship-building between neighbors of diverse backgrounds. The task force partners with local businesses and organizations owned  or managed by, or that serve under-represented groups to host monthly community fellowships. Participants have the opportunity to meet the owner or director, tour the facility, learn about the resources offered and network and socialize with one another. 

Recently, the task force met at Gordon’s Ice Cream Parlor in the East 10th Street business district, owned and operated by African-American business owner, Carl Gordon. Neighborhood residents and other small-business owners crowded the shop, sampling Carl’s 34 home-made flavors and discussing their hopes and dreams for intentionally creating and celebrating Near Eastside diversity. Although most in attendance had never been in the shop, all agreed they would be returning.

While discussion centered on the inherent tensions in race relationships and hurts experienced by many neighbors who have felt marginalized, conversation remained positive and supportive.  One elderly Caucasian woman who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 40 years exclaimed with tears in her eyes, “Looking around this group, it’s incredible and wonderful that we’re all here.” Another African-American business owner whose business has served the Near Eastside for the past 12 years, said she was thrilled to finally have relationships with the neighbors and to begin to feel like part of the community. A young woman who recently moved into the neighborhood shared how excited she was to be part of a community that wishes to embrace and celebrate diversity.

Through programs, services and community development initiatives such as the Near Eastside Diversity & Inclusion Task force, John H. Boner Community Center is working to inspire and support its neighbors who are committed to a better quality of life for themselves and their neighborhood.

Note: United Way brings together compassionate people committed to improving lives in our community. We help Central Indiana residents achieve and maintain self-sufficiency by directing resources toward four key areas of community impact – Education, Income, Health and Basic Needs. John H. Boner Community Center is one of over 90 United Way funded agencies working to address one or more of these priorities. Prior to 2004, the agency was one of 14 neighborhood centers receiving United Way funds through an umbrella organization. Since then, United Way has directly invested over $10.7 million in support of their mission to inspire neighbors and partners to improve the quality of life on the Near Eastside by providing tools for change and growth. The agency’s current Community Fund allocation is $376,216.