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When Anne Robinson was pounding on doors in old South Toledo in her early community organizing efforts with the local chapter of the Association of Community Organizing for Reform Now, she didn't know her experience would land her back in the neighborhood as executive director of Viva South Toledo community development corporation.
"I probably know this community more than any other community in Toledo," Ms. Robinson said. "It's an impoverished community, but it's one that deserves attention."
For the past four weeks, Ms. Robinson, 26, has been getting acclimated to her new role as the face and voice of Viva South Toledo, the Hispanic-themed community development corporation trying to revitalize the area from the Anthony Wayne Bridge to the Toledo Zoo.
Ms. Robinson is Viva South Toledo's fourth executive director since 2001, when it was known as the Heritage South Commercial Revitalization Association. Those years saw a change in its board of directors and direction after the city ended its funding.
The city administration in February, though, gave Viva South $47,000 because of its efforts to transform itself. The Toledo office of Local Initiatives Support Corp. gave Viva South Toledo another $60,000 that it will share with Neighborhood Housing Services to develop housing projects.
It's Ms. Robinson's job to raise money to keep the organization afloat, along with building two homes with NHS, rehabilitating another, and organizing a beautification project.
Ms. Robinson said, though, she is up to the challenge. She was the program director for the Coalition to Access Technology and Networking (CATNeT) for two years. There, she raised money through grant writing for the grass-roots computer network, oversaw a 47 percent increase in equipment donations, and an increase in CATNeT sites from 30 to 50 in two years.
"She had exactly what we needed," said Celso Rodriguez, of the Viva South Toledo board of directors. "Fund-raising is an immediate need for us now, and she had that experience. We also liked her experience as a community organizer because we know things won't really change until we get the community involved."
Some have wondered, however, that if Viva South Toledo is going to focus on Hispanic issues, why not have a Latino or Latina as its executive director? Ms. Robinson said she grew up in a multicultural family, with adopted African-American, Latino, and Asian siblings. She said her time learning different cultures while traveling with her family makes her culturally sensitive .
"Our clientele at CATNeT was very diverse as well," Ms. Robinson said. "About 60 percent of the users there were nonwhite."
Mr. Rodriguez said Ms. Robinson had the best skills for the job and believes, regardless of ethnicity, she will do the best job for the organization.
"If anything, it lets people know that we were very serious about finding the best person for the job, period," Mr. Rodriguez said. "Besides, we have a very diverse community in South Toledo. We are a Hispanic CDC, but we will need to appeal to everyone in the community."
Ms. Robinson is a self-professed "Army brat," living in Hawaii, Germany, and numerous places around the country. Her immediate family lives in Arizona, but she decided to attend Adrian College because that's where her father, Terrance Robinson, attended school.
"He loved the small college atmosphere and always bragged about it," Ms. Robinson said.
She graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2000, majoring in sociology. She received her master's degree in sociology at the University of Toledo in 2002.
"I think we are very lucky to have found her," Mr. Rodriguez said. "From everything we heard from her references, she's a real go-getter. She had a lot of enthusiasm and determination."
Contact Clyde Hughes at: email@example.com or 419-724-6095.