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Published: Tuesday, 8/17/2004

2nd neighborhood group joins crime-fighting site

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Organizing Neighbors Yielding eXcellence, the community development corporation that established Toledo s first Weed and Seed community, will join with a second neighborhood group to extend its crime-fighting strategy.

Neighborhoods In Partnership, which covers much of the Old West End, is joining ONYX, as a new joint Weed and Seed site. ONYX is roughly situated south and west of the Collingwood Boulevard and Dorr Street intersection.

Weed and Seed sites are designations established by the U.S. Department of Justice for communities to fight crime and develop positive programs.

The grassroots program has been successfully established in the Lagrange Development Corp. area. The ONYX and NIP marriage known jointly as Toledo West becomes the first Weed and Seed service area to join two CDCs.

The announcement will be made at Collingwood Presbyterian Church, 2108 Colling wood Blvd., at 1 p.m. today and will include a presentation by Gregory White, U.S. attorney for Ohio s northern district.

The designation as a Weed and Seed site is very important, and these groups should be congratulated because it is a competitive process, said Joan LaRocca, spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington. We have about 300 active sites around the country, and they have been very successful in fighting crime and revitalizing neighborhoods. The sites are unique because they are locally driven.

Ms. LaRocca said Toledo West was one of 55 Weed and Seed applications approved this year by the Justice Department out of 129 applications nationwide.

Deborah Younger, interim executive director of ONYX, said her organization recently contacted NIP about a joint Weed and Seed project. She said the two groups held neighborhood meetings and found that their residents were concerned about many of the same issues.

What we heard about the most were youth, gangs, and drugs, so we built our strategy around those three issues, Ms. Younger said. We want to develop activities for youths, but there is also a general fear about crime here.

Ms. Younger said the two groups will also work on neighborhood restoration projects and programs to address the needs of criminal offenders leaving the prison system.

We know they re being released and coming back into our neighborhoods. We want to have programs in place that will help them adjust, she said.

Kimberly Johnson, who has been executive director at NIP for about two months, said she had worked with Weed and Seed programs in Buffalo, where she was previously employed.

We are kind of the pulse of the neighborhoods, Ms. Johnson said. If there is a quality-of-life issue, people will knock on our doors. That s the way people look at community-based organizations, because we re in the neighborhoods.

A steering committee has been established, made up of ONYX and NIP members. That committee will apply for a five-year, $175,000 grant from the Justice Department. Ms. Younger and Ms. Johnson said if they win the grant, they hope to apply for other money that will help them establish programs directed at community policing and neighborhood activities.

Ms. Younger said the groups will eventually hire a site coordinator that will help develop other local Weed and Seed strategies for ONYX and NIP.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:chughes@theblade.comor 419-724-6095.



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