By Karen Stokes
Residents ready for a change attended a neighborhood visioning session to identify shared values, set priorities and brainstorm ideas on strengthening their community.
In an ongoing effort to most effectively communicate with residents, Greater Milwaukee Foundation hosted the last of a series of three Neighborhood Visioning Sessions on Saturday at Parklawn Assembly of God Park Cafe on Sherman Boulevard.
“The purpose of the meetings is to hear directly from the residents and co-create with them,” said Darlene Russell, senior program manager, Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “We’re looking for the people to tell us what are the priorities or the solutions and support them. It’s really to build social cohesion to get people working together.”
This year, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation will invest $50,000 in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood and is relying on the knowledge, input and leadership of residents to decide where those funds will go.
“The foundation has been investing in the Sherman Park area for more than a decade through our Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative,” Russell said. “Sherman Park is so large, so our focus is on Sherman Park East, referring to the area of Sherman Blvd on the west to the 30th street corridor to the east from Center Street to Capitol Drive.”
Piper Anderson, founder/chief creative strategist for Create Forward, a social impact firm in New York, was on hand to facilitate the visioning process.
“Over the last two sessions, 100 ideas have been generated,” said Anderson. “Practical ideas of how to improve the quality of life for residents.”
Marcus White, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Greater Milwaukee Foundation shared data compiled on the four-county region.
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation focuses on the four-county region of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha and Washington counties which in total has 1.6 million residents and a third of the population are people of color. The diversity is concentrated in Milwaukee but is growing in all the counties.
Sherman Park East has a population of approximately 10,000 people with 95 percent people of color.
White said, “When you look at young people under the age of 25, the population that is going to drive the future of this region, half are people of color. Looking down the road, in a generation, the white population in the four-county region decreases by 100,000 fewer people.”
A recent study revealed that children under the age of five in the four-county region, are majority people of color. The younger a group gets, the more diverse it is.
“If you’re going to be a 21st century global competitive region, you better be diverse. We are competing globally,” White continued. “The fact that our region is becoming more diverse not only means those communities are going to drive the region it is a huge strategic advantage for our region.”
She continued: “Young people of color are going to drive the future of this region. The diversity of this region is one of the most significant strengths.”
Young people were represented at the session. One teen Jeremiah attended the last session and this week, he brought a table of his friends to engage in the conversation.
Mabel Lamb, executive director of Sherman Park Community Association who owns two houses in the Sherman Park neighborhood said, “I wanted to find out what’s happening with the Visioning Sessions, get more information, see what people are looking for, get engaged.
“I would like to see that we develop a solution that is sustainable,” said Sherman Park resident Amari Bell.
An advisory board will go through all of the suggestions and make a final determination.