Q&A with a Neighborhood Association Leader

Posted on July 01, 2024


Photo credit: The Independent

1. how did you become involved in neighborhood programminG? 

I’ve spent most of my life in Stark County, and I believe that it’s important for people to be involved in their community. My parents volunteered at our church and school, as well as helping neighbors when needed, so my siblings and I grew up with that mindset instilled in us. I learned about Stark Community Foundation’s Neighborhood Leadership Program about 20 years ago. My previous neighborhood in Canton had organized associations on all four sides, so I started a group in the
middle of those boundaries and called it "NEW - Neighbors of Edgefield & Washington Park." When I moved to Massillon in 2017, I was disappointed to find that the association previously in place in my neighborhood was no longer active.

2. What inspired you to start a neighborhood association?

I’ve learned that Massillon residents have concerns about the city as a whole and in their own neighborhoods. However, they didn’t seem to be aware of ways to get involved, leverage resources and bring about positive change. Stark Community Foundation’s leadership training showed me how effective it can be to bring together a group of people with a common goal. This motivates others to roll up their sleeves and do something impactful that makes a difference. I saw some opportunities here in Massillon, and shared my ideas with my council representative Marko Lombardi as well as Mayor Jamie Slutz. They recommended, given my past experience, that I start a neighborhood association. We're really hoping to get our elected officials involved so our residents feel like their voices are being heard.

3. What challenge did you face when establishing the association?

It was challenging to establish boundaries because I wanted to involve a lot of people but also keep it manageable. Choosing a name was easy because Massillon is known as the City of Champions, and the CHAMPION name is an acronym for our boundaries (CHerry AMherst Pride In Our Neighborhood). We have almost 400 households, and three people have volunteered to serve as officers. Homeowners, renters and businesses are all encouraged to join.

4. What are you looking forward to most this year?

My primary goal this year is to recruit members to CHAMPION, invite them to get involved and create a renewed sense of community that will spread to other areas of the city. We have a lot of projects and activities planned and I’m hoping that people get excited about participating. I’ve applied for 501(c)(3) status, so we can apply for grants and other funding from government and private sources. It would be wonderful if the CHAMPION group inspires residents in other areas of the city to create an association where they live. 

5. What advice would you offer to someone interested in starting a neighborhood association?

Starting a new neighborhood association can seem daunting. The best advice I have is to simply take it one step at a time and don’t feel overwhelmed. There may have been a group in place previously that just needs a little boost to become active again. Ask for help from neighbors and from someone like me who has done this before. Search online for ideas, stories from similar groups, funding opportunities, etc. Stark Community Foundation and Community Building Partnership are here to support your efforts, and they have training opportunities and other resources available.

Learn more about establishing your own neighborhood association at communitybuildingpartnership.org/scnpp.

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