Friday, August 21, 2015

Action-Packed August

There are three stages to the Legacy Foundation, sponsored Neighborhood Spotlight initiative; organize-decide-act. For the purposes of this grant, Legacy considers the Miller Neighborhood to be from County Line to Clay St. to the North side of Route 12. There are roughly 10,000 people living in this community. Neighborhood Spotlight is a placed-based initiative for reinvesting in Lake County communities.  Supported by the Legacy Foundation and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation with technical assistance from the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development, Spotlight is about the process of change rather than funding specific projects.

(Members of the Miller Spotlight Property & Blight Action Group meet for the first time.)

From January 2014-June 2015 Gary’s Miller Community was in the Organize Stage.
From 2014-2015 volunteers attended 3 workshops given by the Legacy Foundation, wrote up their neighborhood Spotlight Grant Application, received the grant and then began the process of hiring someone to help facilitate the grant. Our Community Builder (Jessie Renslow) was hired and started to meet with our eleven-person, all volunteer-member, Steering Committee. They gathered a list of vested community members (people who lived, worked, or worshipped in Miller). The list had 603 names on it. To date 211 folks have been interviewed. The volunteers asked these community members what they considered the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the neighborhood to be.  The goal of these conversations was to build relationships and help community members identify shared priorities and passions.  The report was created to summarize the feedback, which also helped everyone learn more about how others view their community.  The report can be accessed here. The report findings were delivered by 10 volunteers from the community on June 27, 2015 at St. Mary of the Lake’s Lessard Hall. Community engagement and relationship building are ongoing processes that will continue throughout the Miller Spotlight program. The grant only required 100 interviews, but we are shooting for at least 500 as that will be 5% of our population. We are continuing to interview until 10/31/15. Please email Jessie via to book your interview. We will release an updated report in early November. 

                               (Members of the Miller Spotlight Area Context Action Group meet for the first time.)

From July-October 2015 we will be in the Decide Stage:  Community members came together in July to create a common vision for what Miller could ideally be in 10 years.  This vision is comprehensive and includes all aspects of the community.  Action Group were formed by volunteers around the themes identified in the report and during the visioning session. There are seven groups:

1.Miller’s Area Context
2. Economy and Job Opportunities
3. Safety and Code Enforcement
4. Environment and Eco Tourism
5. Property
6. Education and Youth/ Child Programming
7. Transportation and Infrastructure

All are welcome to join an action group. Please email Jessie via for more info. There was an Action Group training on August 6, 2015. You can access the video of this training and all training materials here. Action groups will be creating SMAART goals and action plans that articulate how the community will achieve its vision.  The action plans include commitments from people and organizations who will ensure that the plan is implemented by the agreed upon deadlines. These are due on 10/9/15. Along with the group’s early action project grant. Each group will apply for a grant to help ignite interest in the theme they are tackling within the community. The process goes as follows:

The goals of the early action projects are:
To have an immediate impact on the quality of life in the targeted area.
To involve a diverse representation of residents from the targeted area.
To build collaboration among organizations and businesses in the targeted area.
To engage new community members in the collective impact process.

Each project will be funded for a maximum total of $1000.  
Projects should provide visible results in the short-term (3-6 months).
Requests should be for new projects or an expansion of an existing project (not for operating or ongoing staff costs).
Projects should demonstrate a high level of community participation and engagement.
Additional leverage will be looked upon favorably, but is not required.

Share idea with local Steering Committee and get feedback. 
Complete one-page Funding Request.
Within two weeks of the grant application, the local Steering Committee will approve or deny the request.  The discussion regarding the decision may include meeting(s), phone conversations, and/or electronic correspondence.
The Action Group will be informed of the decision within one business day of the decision being finalized.
The Steering Committee will draft a grant agreement.  Once the agreement is signed, funds will be disbursed and the project may commence.
The Action Group will submit a brief report describing results no later than six months after grant funds are disbursed.

              (Members of the Miller Spotlight Education/ Child & Youth Programming Action Group meet for the first time.)

From November of 2015 to January of 2017 (and hopefully beyond) we will be in the Act Stage:  Our final plan will be presented by and to the community at a rollout event before Thanksgiving 2015, in which volunteers and partners will be recognized and fresh support will be enlisted.  Strategies for ongoing communication and results-based accountability will ensure that partners live up to their commitments and provide opportunities for the plan to be revised over time as goals are met and new goals are identified.

Ready to get involved?

Contact Jessie Renslow, the Miller Community Builder, at  You can also learn more at or by liking Miller Spotlight on Facebook.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Miller Spotlight Action Groups Workshop

We had a great turn out on 8/5/15 at our Miller Spotlight Action Group Workshops

Between the morning and evening workshops we had 54 people attend. Folks met at the Marshall J. Gardner Center of the Arts 540 S. Lake St. Gary, Indiana 46403.

If you were unable to attend the workshops, you can watch the video (YouTube required it to be split into 4 short videos) of it here and access the PowerPoint here. If you would like to join an Action Group email our Community Builder, Jessie Renslow, via

 What's an Action Group? From the 4,013 comments we collected from our Miller Spotlight Community Conversations 7 themes appeared:

1.Miller’s Area Context
2. Economy and Job Opportunities
3. Safety and Code Enforcement
4. Environment and Eco Tourism
5. Property
6. Education and Youth/ Child Programming
7. Transportation and Infrastructure


Our Action Groups will explore the viability of the opinions expressed in the interview process. Community members can join Action Groups. They will meet 3-6 times this summer to create plans that will address these themes and be implemented in 2016. They will also write early action grants to help further the revitalization efforts in our community. 

To view our Gary-Miller Spotlight Community Quality of Life Conversation Report click here. (If you would like a downloadable PDF of the report email Jessie Renslow via