Neighborhood by neighborhood, Legacy Foundation continuously works to transform Lake County for the better. Through its Neighborhood Spotlight Initiative, Legacy Foundation has led the charge in positive, visible shifts within Lake County communities of Gary-Emerson, Gary-Miller, Griffith, and North West Hobart. After decades of significant economic decline, these neighborhoods have been struggling to thrive and sustain their vibrancy. The Legacy Foundation shines a Neighborhood Spotlight on these areas of opportunity.
Griffith is a glowing example of Neighborhood Spotlight’s capabilities. The Griffith Neighborhood Spotlight (GNS) initiative was organized in early December of 2015 after receiving a community building grant from Legacy Foundation. The GNS initiative is supported by “backbone” organization, the Griffith Crossroads YMCA, and a Steering Committee of six Griffith resident volunteers. Community Builder Ken Karlstedt, Sr. was hired in early January 2016 to organize, facilitate, and support the work of the Steering Committee. Additional community-based volunteer members were interviewed and added to support the front-end “Engagement” and information-gathering phase of the Collective Impact Program Development process.
The initial 2016 goal of this process and its team of dedicated members was to develop a “Quality of Life Plan” for Griffith and its community residents. Early in GNS’s development the committee pinpointed the town’s basic unique unifying statement: “One Town... One Community...One Neighborhood.”
The Griffith Vision Statement was developed through the work of representatives throughout Griffith at the Neighborhood Spotlight workshop in June of 2016. The vision statement looks ahead 5 to 10 years and provides a benchmark target for all the work Griffith tackles together as government, civic, faith-based, business, school and volunteer residents. The statement integrates all the quality work and improvements facilitated to date. It also paints an image of what Griffith strives to be as a community—as One Neighborhood. The vision statement serves to represent and communicate that image to all who would be future participants as new residents, businesses, or community organizations.
This past June, the Griffith Historical Society unveiled the Centennial Watch Tower and Grand Trunk Depot Memorial Plaques, a culmination of GNS’s 18-month “Cooperative Community Project” focus. The dedication honors and preserves the town’s cherished railroad history, and was a perfect illustration of the successful efforts behind GNS. The memorials came into existence due to the tireless labor of community volunteer partners, including Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 264, and their Leaders Curtis Rex and Jerry Baker; Apprentices from the Bricklayers and Allied Crafter's Union, Local #4, and their instructor Jeff Cavinder; and Griffith Historical Society volunteers Phil Dembowski and Craig Hoot.
An earlier victory occurred in April with the opening of the Panther Park “Fitness, Recreation, and Rest Area.” The collaborative efforts of representatives of GNS and the “Cooperative Community Project” worked hard to create the park, which, with its innovative outdoor fitness equipment, is part-fitness and part-fun. Collaborators included Griffith Parks and Recreation, Imagine Griffith, Griffith Rotary, the Griffith School Town, and the Griffith Crossroads YMCA.
Griffith Neighborhood Spotlight and other communities collaborating through Legacy Foundation Neighborhood Spotlights are collectively improving quality of life for their citizens. With support from Legacy Foundation staff and consultants, Neighborhood Spotlight communities continue to organize, decide, and act upon projects that can profoundly change their future. Lake County is transforming into a stronger foundation, block by block.