Despite the pandemic, the association continues to work to beautify the city
CINCINNATI – Northside, about 7 miles from downtown Cincinnati, has had its ups and downs over the years. It is currently in full resurgence, with many development projects underway.
But despite the successes, Northside still shares many of the challenges other urban neighborhoods face – trash, graffiti, discarded tires, vacant buildings, and poorly maintained properties.
What would you like to know
- Keep Cincinnati Beautiful has been around since 1978
- The organization works with city departments, community groups to organize cleanup and beautification projects across the city
- While continuing to hold smaller events, KCB encountered challenges recruiting volunteers and fundraising during the pandemic
- The Cincy Block Party fundraiser is October 15
Northside resident Cindy Sherding said neighbors have come together over the years to help resolve these issues. And they turned to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful (KCB) for help.
KCB is a local non-profit organization engaged in educational and environmental initiatives that promote community pride throughout the region, in collaboration with city departments and other organizations. Projects range from cleaning up illegal landfills to planting flowers in important communal areas.
In addition to providing tools and resources, they help identify target areas and work on logistics, such as recruiting volunteers. This often means using partner companies.
“The events provide a way for community members to get involved and help beautify the neighborhood,” said Sherding. “I don’t know how we would have a really productive neighborhood cleaning without KCB.”
What is Keep Cincinnati Beautiful?
Jonathan Adee, executive director of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, said that a major contributor to community pride resides in a place that feels safe and welcoming.
“We are using our beautification and education efforts to create behavioral change towards our environment and make it a great place to live,” said Adee, a 20-year veteran of the nonprofit sector.
The goal of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful is to do exactly what its name implies – beautify the city.
But it’s not just a question of aesthetics.
Adee said their approach reflects the Broken Window Theory, which states that visible signs of crime and civil disorder, such as broken windows or vandalism, can create an environment that fosters more crime and disorder.
In most cases, it has nothing to do with residents of a particular neighborhood, Adee said. But seeing crime, vandalism or illegal dumping in their community can instill a sense of hopelessness in residents.
“We are trying to reclaim neighborhoods from the disreputable items and return them to the residents and families who love these communities. We want to make sure the 52 neighborhoods are safe and healthy places for children to play and grow,” he said. Adee said.
The organization uses data collected by the City of Cincinnati’s customer service system to determine trends in issues such as illegal landfills, harmful property and graffiti. They work regularly with the Cincinnati Fire and Police Departments, the Recycling Program, and the Department of Public Services. They also work with community groups and neighborhood councils.
KCB has been around since 1978. Formerly known as the Clean Cincinnati Commission, its mission has remained the same over the decades.
Over the past 10 years, they’ve picked up 8 million pounds of garbage and picked up 42,000 tires. They also cleaned up nearly 8,000 graffiti tags and closed dozens of illegal landfills. They also repainted over 1,000 buildings and planted over 100,000 trees and flowers.
Each year, KCB recruits thousands of volunteers – ranging from students to corporate partners – to participate in cleanup events across town.
Some of their neighborhood cleanups attract more than 500 volunteers, Adee said.
But, as with most operations, the pandemic posed challenges for them. Social distancing and closed college campuses linked to COVID-19 are hampering their ability to host events and recruit.
Effects of COVID-19
KCB had to cancel all corporate cleanup events associated with last year’s Great American Cleanup, an annual event that involves approximately 15,000 community events nationwide.
Such jobs require corporate sponsors and a large number of volunteers, but it also requires dozens of community members to roll up their sleeves and participate. Adee said getting the support of the people who live there is vital.
“It’s amazing the kind of transformation of a neighborhood that can take place when 500 people come together for a few hours of collaborative engagement,” he added. “The types of projects that would take a year with a handful of people can be wiped out in a matter of hours.”
Right now, KCB is focused on small events. Most of the participants are neighborhood residents, along with a handful of outside volunteers and some members of the KCB team.
On October 9, they organize such cleanups in Clifton, East Westwood, Madisonville and Roselawn. They are also teaming up with Streetside Brewery for a “Tuesday Night Tidy” event on October 5 in the East End.
KCB has an impact on Cincinnati
As an interim City Council member, Steve Goodin has a unique take on what the absence of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and other nonprofits means for the Queen City.
A resident of Clifton, Goodin has been frustrated with the increasing amount of trash he has seen in recent months. He specifically highlighted a considerable amount of trash along Clifton Avenue.
“As a resident of Cincinnati, I knew Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and sort of what they did. But it wasn’t until I became a member of city council that I saw how integral they were,” said Goodin.
Goodin said that not having KCB and other organizations in local neighborhoods made the city “dirtier than it has been in years.”
“I can’t say it enough: Keep Cincinnati Beautiful serves an important role. They can do things that city officials and even some city departments can’t,” Goodin said.
Support from the Cincy neighborhood support agency
Keep Cincinnati Beautiful receives a significant portion of its funding from the City of Cincinnati, but not all of it. The organization is also responsible for securing a combination of grants and corporate donations.
They are looking to recoup some of the funds lost during the pandemic through their next perk, the Cincy Block Party. The October 15 event will take place at the Benken Florist Home and Garden Center in Silverton.
It won’t be a gala, Adee said. It will be a much more low-key celebration. There will be food, drinks and games. Adee was excited about a large-scale Plinko game created by local artists.
“This holiday is meant to celebrate all of the great partners who are committed to protecting the environment and helping Cincinnati continue to shine,” said Adee.