Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Area Context Community Goal Updates

Goal 1: Market the Miller neighborhood to increase positive press mentions to at least once quarterly and to increase tourism by 10% in 2016. 

Received the Hoosier-American Planning Award for Outreach for 2016 
(Jessica Renslow Accepting the 2016 American Planning Award for Excellence in Outreach at BSU.)

Marketing Partnerships
-StoryCorps (Chicago Office) recorded 12 pair interviews ( 24 people) in Miller on Saturday 3/19/16 and Sunday 3/20/16. This was the first time they had recorded in Indiana. They rarely do onsite interviews, but our Area Context Group convinced their producers that our neighborhood was ripe with interesting and positive tales to tell. The producers have recommended four of the 12 interviews for NPR’s national broadcast. Jessie Renslow garnered permission to edit and distribute the 12 StoryCorps recordings on all Miller Spotlight hubs/ local news media if so desired. 
(Podcasting 101 at Steel City Academy.)
***January 3rd-6th 2017 Gary's Miller Spotlight volunteers covered equipment management, digital literacy and basics of podcasting for 4 days in course (Harnessing Your Narrative created by Jessie Renslow) . They taught Gary kids how to harness their narrative through podcasting at Steel City Academy in Glen Park. 

***February 4th-6th 2017: Our community partners Family Folklore Foundation, Inc. and Almost Fairytales premiered a short film entitled "Radio Renaissance" at the Praxis Film Festival this February in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Congrats to these awesome volunteers. They have been helping us with our citywide digital time capsule project. The short takes place in the 46403 and explains the importance of digital literacy initiatives for emerging communities. 

***August 3rd & August 19th 2017: On August 3rd our community partners, Family Folklore Foundation, Inc. and The Indigen Storytellers Guild, held a storytelling workshops that was attended by 14 people at The Stage Gary Business Incubator/ Coworking Space. Participants are performing their stories at The Stage Gary on August 19th as part of their August Small Business Saturday. They will host another workshop & performance in November of 2017.

***We have a potential partnership with one of our NWI/Chicagoland media syndicates to air the interviews as podcasts once we get 30 plus interviews completed. 

Blogs about Gary’s Miller Community: 

Goal 2: Host quarterly social gatherings with at least 100 attendees to update the Miller Quality of Life Plan and secure volunteers for new initiatives. 

(S'mores at the 2nd Annual Lake St Lantern Parade.)
-We hosted a Memorial Day parade down Lake Street on 5/28/16 with 42 people parading with 50+ spectators. We hosted this to kickoff the summer season and to bring at- tention to all the programming we are doing at Lake St Beach this summer and across the community as a whole. 

-We hosted The First Annual Lake St Lantern Parade down Lake Street on Friday 10/29/16 with 116 people parading with 100+ spectators. We hosted this to celebrate the progress being made at The Dana Evans Community Corner (the former Ralph’s Wilco) and to bring attention to all the programming we are doing in the community as a whole. 
(After party fun at the 2nd Annual Lake St Lantern Parade.)
-We cohosted Have S’more Fun Event with Councilwoman Wyatt and the Gary Rotary Club on 10/29/16 with 116 people at The Dana Evans Community Corner (the former Ralph’s Wilco). Locals were able to casually discuss the community goals and get excit- ed about projects happening across the city. 

-We hosted our 4th of July in January on 1/28/17 at the MBACD from 1-3pm. Thirty-six people helped us celebrate our milestones and add additional goals to our updated Community Plan.

-On Sunday 10/8/17 from 5-8pm at The Stage Gary (located at 925 N Shelby St Gary, IN 46403) will thanked our volunteers and celebrated all of Gary’s Miller Spotlight’s milestones. There was a short awards ceremony highlighting our extremely active volunteers. 

(Gary Rotarians helping run the 2nd Annual Lake St Lantern Parade.)

-We hosted The 2nd Annual Lake St Lantern Parade & Have S’more Fun Event on Friday 10/27/17. 100+ people paraded and 100+ watched. We hosted this to celebrate the programming we are doing and to bring a fun community event to the MBACD.
-We hosted a Main Streets info session on January 23, 2018. Gary’s Miller Spotlight volunteers are starting the process to become a Main Streets Community with the State of Indiana. This is a national program run in Indiana through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs aka OCRA.
(ARMP volunteers learning about OCRA's Main Streets Program.)

-Our community partners at the Aetna Manor Revitalization Program also hosted a Main Streets info session on February 17, 2018. The ARMP volunteers are also starting the process to become a Main Streets Community with the State of Indiana. This is a national program run in Indiana through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs aka OCRA.

Goal 3: Build virtual and physical community bulletin boards in 2016. 

-Part A:
Our backbone organization MBACD partnered with our local IT gurus, Openhill, and have launched Dragonfly NWI (the virtual community bulletin board). We partnered with them to run two tech literacy workshops for our local businesses and organizations. 18 representatives attended these workshops. They represented most of our businesses and organizations. They are starting to adopt the virtual bulletin board.

***We are continuing to do one-on-one training with folks who need extra help transitioning to this new platform. Checkout 

-Part B:
We have a bulletin board secured at Wells Street Beach. The Pickford family partnered with us to update the board all summer.

We have partnered with The Charter School of the Dunes who have a digital sign. They are located at one of our community entrances (US 20 and Old Hobart Rd.) So, they post updates for the community when we make a request. 

(Bulletin board coming soon!)
3rd physical bulletin board is being built by Mary Duggard for the Dana Evans Community Corner (aka the former Ralph’s-Wilco).

We would like a 4th physical bulletin board on the east side of town (since we have the westward one at Wells St. and the digital one in the middle of town). We have approached a local artist and one of our local woodworkers. They have verbally agreed to create the physical bulletin board. We are setting out a timeline for this currently. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Access Miller 2017-2018 Goals

We have expanded from our original Goal 1: Identify and engage at least ten (10) key regional partners involved in development, improvements and funding of transportation infrastructure to advocate for and find means to achieve our short and long term goals beginning 10/31/2015. 

We are continuing to advocate and push to create communities that all residents can grow up in and old in, aka life-long neighborhoods/ age-friendly cities.  NICTD is planning to extend its double track and so there has been a great amount of attention placed on Gary’s tourism opportunities. As group we are showcasing critical mass and advocating for complete streets across Northwest Indiana and the state as a whole. 
Our initiative is designed to increase ridership and investment in our blue/green trails. (Particularly close to our hearts is finishing The Gary Green Link and uniting Deep River with more accessible kayak launches. We would love to help install a launch in Lake Station at Bicentennial Park and one one New Chicago along the river.) Cyclist, paddlers, ecotourists and the disabled will travel if opportunities are there for them.

Goal 2: Increase number of residents biking, rolling and walking in Miller 500% by 2025. 

In 2018 we are creating an inclusive biking program with our community partner, The Blind Social Center (who caters to 600+ patrons). We plan to create a tandem cycling club that tours the region advocating for infrastructure improvements. Take Bike the Streets: Biking with the Blind is a project for peo­ple of all abilities to encourage recreational collaborations to implement tourism, well­ness and economic development in Gary, Indiana and beyond. 

We are also looking to expand our Ken Parr Build-a-Bike Shop hours and have partnered with Northern Lights Eco Adventures to launch an expeditionary, service-based learning camp for teens for the summer of 2018. Our hope is once some of our build-a-bike participants turn 18, they will also be able to be hired by Zagster to maintain our bikeshare cycles, thus creating a cottage industry for Garyites that could expand across the region.

Goal 3: Bike Share and Car Share programs will increase from zero users to a combined twenty (20) users per day by 2019. 

We are seeking community partners to help fund the 2018-2019 season of Zagster as well as looking for parties interested in participating in a car share program. 
(Gary's Miller Spotlight volunteers enjoying the new Zagster Bike Share.)

Goal 4: Provide shuttle bus services to 500 Miller residents on weekends and for special events by summer 2016 and increase numbers by 10% each year until the beginning of 2018. 

This service actually launched a year early in the summer of 2015! We have been working all summer to up the ridership and market this amazing service/ partnership with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. We will continue to work with NPS on this project.

Goal 5: Develop a website tracking physical obstacles to accessibility in Miller and improve the 10 public sites identified as least accessible by 2020. 
Access Miller has partnered with Barrier Free Beach 2020 and The City of Gary on this project. We ran 6 workshops on this subject and received a 2016 ADA Indiana Community Grant. We created a multi platformed educational series on accessibility. Access 4 All premiered as part of the Directed by Women Global Film Festival this September. A portion of the series Access 4 All: Progress in our Parks was featured in the Indiana Dunes Film Festival.  

It is now available on YouTube at : Access 4 All

Please watch the series, take the survey and encourage others to do so too. 

We just received a 2017 ADA Indiana Community Grant that we will collaborate on with the National Lakeshore and City of Gary.

You can access our entire Access Miller Updates here:

Goal 6: Make all Miller Spotlight web content accessible by 2019. 

We have designed our content to be as universal as possible and continue to do so. Please email any notes/ recommendations to

(Click here to find our more about Gary’s Miller Spotlight.)

Take Bike The Streets Part 5: Outcomes & Future Goals

Take Bike the Streets has increased ridership, elevated community health and aided in our urban renewal efforts by positively impacting our economy. 

Future Goals:

  • Create a safety village to educate locals and teach people of all ages/ abilities to ride bikes 

  • In 2018 we plan to begin our next phase, Take Bike the Streets: Biking with the Blind & Seeing Impaired

  • In 2018 we plan to have the Ken Parr Build-a-Bike crew build aqua chairs to help locals use some of our water amenities; splash pads 
  • We have several grants submitted on all three projects and are writing more as we wait to hear the results. 
  • We are seeking community partners to help us implement these projects.

(To Learn more about Access Miller click here.)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Take Bike The Streets Part 4: Outdoor Adaptive Escapade

The 1st Annual Outdoor Escapade was held on Saturday July 15, 2017 with great success. Roughly 500 people of all ages and abilities came to Gary to enjoy accessible ecotourism activities. The event started at 10:00AM at The Dana Evans Community Corner (6300 Miller Ave Gary, IN 46403). This location was one of four sites set up in Gary’s Miller community for this active tourism festival. The festivities included a ton of free active tourism attractions such as paddling, bicycling and archery. 

The Outdoor Adaptive Escapade (OAE) focused on highlighting green & blue trails.It celebrated all abilities and showcased the many hidden recreational gems that the Miller area in Gary, and neighboring, communities have to offer. 

OAE featured adaptive vehicles and equipment that enabled individuals with limited mobility to access roads, trails, dunes, and beaches, to participate in activities of all types of terrains and in all kinds of weather. New resources and opportunities typically not seen or not readily available were introduced to community attendees of different abilities that allowed for a fun, creative outdoors experience. 

Staging took place primarily at 6300 Miller Ave., the ADA Launch at Calumet Lagoon in Marquette Park, the Douglas Center for Environmental Education and at Lake Street Beach. 

Attendees had the opportunity to explore and experience a wide range of adaptive outdoor recreation equipment including: accessible paths, vehicles, hand and tandem cycles, Action Trackchairs, and Freedom Trax, kayaks and paddle boards. Zagster Bikeshare and Miller Spotlight’s Take- Bike- the-Streets Build-a-Bike volunteers were on hand to demonstrate bikes and share information about bike sharing, bike racks, bike repair stations and Build-A-Bike shop initiatives in Gary’s Miller neighborhood. 

The Miller Spotlight group showcased the initial phases of two accessible community gardens. Activities were in coordination with Adaptive Adventures, Northwest Paddling Association (NWIPA), Barrier Free Beach 2020, City of Gary Parks & Recreation, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, National Park Services, Save the Dunes, Causes for Change, and the Legacy Foundation Neighborhood Spotlight Groups. 

The purpose of this annual event is to showcase that aging and disability impact everyone. One in three households in the USA is home to a person with a varying ability. Universal design principles should be considered whenever and wherever possible, for the benefit of each and all. Infrastructure, transportation, and the environment should be considered from conception through execution; programs and services developed and implemented with all in mind.  Anyone seeking additional information may contact Jessica Renslow, via (818) 294-4240/, or follow Miller Spotlight on Facebook or check out 

500+ people attended/ participated in the event
The National Lakeshore (NPS) purchased a set of Freedom Traxx and a portable adaptive mat for events. 

Please help us prepare for next year's event by taking the OAE Survey:

Press about the project so far:

Take Bike The Streets Part 3: Zagster

What is Zagster?
We obtained our Zagster Bikeshare contract this year and secured the funding for June 2017-June2018. Zagster is the leading provider of bike­share programs for cities, univer­sities, businesses and properties. Both Fort Wayne and Evansville have recently launched Zagster fleets. Zagster simplifies bike sharing through a full ­service model that covers everything involved in planning, building and operating a system. By using right­sized infrastructure and app­based technology, Zagster bike­sharing programs are flexible and affordable for both communities like Gary’s Miller Neighborhood and the riders within them and attracted to them. 

Why Zagster? 
Acquiring a national brand such as Zagster has put Gary’s Miller Community on the map for other ecotourism companies and environmental education programmers. Zag­ster covers the planning, hardware, technology and operations to run a bike­share in a community the size of Miller. (They have 5 different adaptive bike options.) The community fundraised for an adaptive hand cycle that will be installed on September 1st as a part of September’s First Fridays on Lake Street. Zagster focuses on transportation infrastructure with a tangible return on investment. All profits from in­vesting in Zagster are going to run various Miller Spotlight projects. 

In its first month of opperation our bike share has had 35 regulars and 25 one-time users join the program. 

Press about the project so far:

So far the most common rental zone area is The Stage Gary Small Business Incubator/ CoWorking Space. It will be interesting to see how this project evolves. We are seeking sponsors for the 2018-2019 contract. Please email Jessie Renslow (Community Builder) via for more info.

(To Learn more about Take Bike The Streets click here.)

Take Bike The Streets Part 2: Ken Parr Build-a-Bike

Why do a build-a-bike? 
With 8.8% of our community solely depending on public transportation, biking is more than a recreational activity in Gary’s Miller footprint. We estimated in 2015 that there were between 1500-1600 people solely riding the bus/train in the 46403 zip code. In a city of 77,000 and 54 square miles Gary doesn’t have a bike shop! 

How did we get started? 
By training volunteers of varying ages in these workshops, we are providing a constructive activity that promotes biking and capitalizes on fostering local leadership. 

How does this work? 
We meet 10am-noon every Saturday from June-October 
Each build-a-bike crew member works on his/ her bike 

Do you charge for your services? 
Once a bike is ready to ride, the build-a-bike crew member donates 4 hours of service with our Miller Garden Club volunteers to receive it. 

Outcomes ?

In it’s ninth week, the Ken Parr Build-a-Bike has had 7 graduates. So, far the popup shop has had 32 participants. 

(To Learn more about Take Bike The Streets click here.)

Take Bike The Streets Part 1: What is Take Bike The Streets?

Take Bike The Streets is a comprehensive program that involves community engagement, economic development and intergenerational environmental education. As a Neighborhood Spotlight Community, our volunteers have committed to organize, decide and act upon projects that will profoundly change our community’s future. Take Bike the Streets is just such a project. Gary’s Miller Community has been described as "an island of integration and natural beauty.” This diversity extends to modes of trans­portation. The goal of Take Bike the Streets is to capitalize on the community’s diversity and implement a multiphase project that makes cycling an accessible and enjoyable activity for all our community and our visitors. Take Bike The Streets is a comprehensive program that involves community engage­ment, economic development and intergenerational environmental education. It has three phases: Planning, Educating, Implementing. With 8.8% of our community solely depending on public transportation, biking is more than a recreational activity in Gary’s Miller footprint. Our community conducted forty­-two bike tours in 2016. They promoted community rapport, tourism, litter cleanups and healthy ­living. They were attended by 9 regulars (plus an upwards of 30 additional peo­ple depending on the weather/ ride’s theme).

During our information gathering phase (2015), we conducted a SWOT study and cre­ated a community plan. Promoting biking activities and universally designed facilities became a high priority for our volunteers in 2016. We received grant funding for 11 bike racks. We held a workshop where the community chose the 11 spots for the racks to be installed, as well as four additional universal design workshops for our local businesses/ non­ for­ profits. In the summer of 2016 we started conducting monthly build­-a­-bike popup shops at our local farmer’s market. We also ran weekly bike tours May­-September and monthly tours from October­-April. Our dedicated riders cycled through all types of weather! During these ten­ mile tours, we realized there was a need to have bike repair stations, way­ finding signs, bike rentals and inclusive events based around universal design in our community. The objective of these facilities/ activities is two­-fold. Firstly, they provide needed amenities for local tourists, recreational cyclists and those community members that use bicycles as their primary means of transportation. Secondly, our vol­unteers will also be able to expand their outreach/ educational efforts to a larger popu­lation. Additionally our volunteers We received a Legacy Foundation Neighborhood Spotlight Grant to help us move Take Bike The Streets to the next level.

(To Learn more about Take Bike The Streets click here.)