What is Urbanworks

Urbanworks is an opportunity at the very least. An opportunity to continue the type of community engagement that we have been doing. An opportunity to share with others some of our experiences and to start creating new ones. An opportunity to teach, guide and mentor youth.

We have been fortunate enough to have worked in the 5 neighborhoods of the Grandview Corridor in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. For the last seven and a half years we have worked with residents and volunteers to create engagement projects in each neighborhood. Creating neutral spaces for people to gather, and get to know one another. To talk about their ideas and what the concerns are for their neighborhoods.

We have been able to use different types of engagement tools such as art classes, ceramics, and a sculpture park to help make the arts accessible to all members of our community and with all abilities. We built a community garden and an urban farm where elementary school children helped to grow food for their neighbors and the school. Installed park enhancements like trees, flowers, benches and made all assets ADA accessible. Provided programming for the park like soccer clinics, walking clubs, and art classes. And we helped launch the first coffee shop in our downtown in 30 years. The Cafe’ has become a central gathering space for downtown meetings, special events, with friendly service and great coffee.

Those are some of our past experiences from which we learned a great deal. Now we are ready for new challenges and new experiences. We will be working in new communities but realize there is still much to do in our own community.  One of the first projects we hope to start soon is the acquisition of a 1940’s Conoco Station. The goal is to restore the original look of the station, with liberties of course, and then begin on the interior. Next year we hope to begin programming out of the space and eventually put in a greenhouse. But first things first, it’s time to sign some contracts.

 

 

 

Attachment: A Letter for a Friend…..

I have been thinking a lot about the difference between loving someone and having an attachment to someone. They are not the same and we cause ourselves pain when we think they are. Attachments can grow out of love for someone but attachments take on their own view of what is right or wrong for someone.

Love is beautiful; it’s caring and giving. It makes you feel warm, at home and comfortable, at peace. Love is supportive, nurturing, and inspiring. It helps us feel whole and happy about who we are and where we are going. In my mind, it is the true expression of who we are and the gift that has been given to us by our maker. It is heaven!

Attachments are confused with love because they focus our emotions on a person or thing. Let’s say you are a football fan. You love watching football. You watch the games and regardless of who wins the game, you feel good because you love football. When you attach to one team and their failures cause you pain you scream, kick the dog, yell at the kids and break your wife’s best china – that’s not a love of the game. That’s all of your attachments blowing up cause ‘your team’ let you down. They didn’t make good decisions on the field. If only you could have been there to ‘call the right plays and catch the tough pass’ – right?

Attachments are controlling devices for altering other people’s behavior. We want to alter their behavior for various reasons but usually because we do not trust them to make a good decision without us there. That’s not love, it’s distrust, and you aren’t allowing them to have the ‘Free Will’ that has been given to them at birth. You, we, are trying to make them something that they may not be or may not want to be regardless of what they tell you. We usually feel that we are the one, and maybe the only one, to help them overcome their challenges. To help them to be what ’we’ want them to be. To live up to the potential that we see in them, or to form them into the perfect person. At the very least, so that they are less self-destructive. That’s not love, that’s manipulation.

At some point, you have to let our attachments make their own decisions. We can guide them, influence them, punish them, yell at them or just cry. But shouldn’t our goal be to trust their decisions? To trust that they will make the right decisions to improve their lives when we are not around? I mean, doesn’t everyone have to grow up sometime? Be responsible for themselves? They can’t do that if we don’t allow them to make their own decisions. It will always be up to us to fix them if we don’t set them free.

They will face the consequences of bad decisions and they will reap the rewards of good decisions. It’s really not up to us. ONLY THEY CAN alter the course of their actions and change their lives in doing so. Attachments are not love because they cause us pain and loving relationships should not be about pain.

Taking the right-hand turn

 

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When people talk to me about the life they are living I often hear the tones of desperation in their voice and general frustration in their inability to change the course of the life they are living. They may feel trapped in a sensitive family matter, an unfulfilling career, or the constant rollercoaster ride of an emotionally toxic relationship. They soon have self-doubts about who they are and if they can change the situation.

We all experience these imbalances, disruptions to our vision of the good around us and even the good we do for others. So we accept the good and the bad as a norm, modify our own expectations, take a left turn, adapt and survive. We keep turning left at every bump because that is what we know. Once you do it a couple of times you decide that it’s not too bad, you made it – right? You survived the hurt. That is what we do as humans, adapt and survive, because we know that space, we know the good, the hurtful and the effect on our mental health but we turn left anyway. It is known, it is sometimes predictable, but what it is not, is change.

 

IMG_6760wChange itself can be disruptive. Right turns lead to unexplored spaces, the unknown. As domesticated humans we want boundaries, we want instructions to the rules of the space. How we will be perceived if we act ourselves. What will we be rewarded for and punished for in this new place? We want to know how to adapt and survive. In reality, these new spaces are an empty canvas awaiting the instruction of the life that you are about to build. You set the rules of engagement for the people that bring you disappointment and those that bring joy. You set the rules for the career you want. You set the rules of your life and if you don’t, someone else will.

It all sounds pretty simple but in fact, both are challenging. A lack of resources, family support, or a whole range of other issues can create obstacles to moving on. Taking the right-hand turn is a bit like jumping out of a window hoping you can figure out your landing before you hit. If you are stuck, some planning and determination could help muster resources and support to allow you to change course. If you take the right turn, planning might allow you to pull the cord in airspace that you want to operate in. If that doesn’t work you may feel the impact of the ground, but so what, you already know how to adapt and survive.

 

 

One vacant lot at a time!



HipstamaticPhoto-514740072.919446wOne of the things we hear the most in these older neighborhoods downtown are complaints about vacant lots and vacant structures. Properties are left abandon for any number of reasons. Families move on, people pass on, records are lost and courts are full of property disputes. The bottom line is when owners don’t take care of these properties someone has to and generally that falls on city governments. It cost cities hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to cut grass, remove trash and tires that get dumped on unoccupied parcels. Owners can be fined but unless they live in the county you can’t do a lot more, especially if they pay their taxes. Claiming property for the greater good through eminent domain requires approval by the state legislature.

HipstamaticPhoto-519751680.590378wAt the end of the day, residents are left with eyesores at the very best, a place for mischief and a signal to all that pass, no body cares what their neighborhood looks like. The city has to spend valuable dollars on chronic conditions one handful at a time. Neighbors are left to complain, make calls, have a meeting or sometimes just take the bull by the horns and drag him to the finish line.

HipstamaticPhoto-519759709.533889wIt’s  not easy but it can be done and cities are wanting to move these properties from their land banks and their delinquent tax lists but more importantly, residents don’t want and shouldn’t have to settle for a ‘swiss cheese’ neighborhood riddled with vacant, overgrown, decaying properties and structures. This isn’t just the cities job, it is every bodies job to make our neighborhoods what we want them to be. In order to do that, you have to talk to each other and organize around your concerns, let people know what you want, but don’t stop there, make a plan.

HipstamaticPhoto-519765476.776466wTry to find properties next door, down the street or by your child’s school. Close to other assets that you can build off of and they can benefit from your work. Some cities have adopt-a-lot contacts that are renewed each year. Citizens or neighborhood groups can use the lots for community events, gardens, play areas or dog parks, and if they grow tired of maintaining it in a few years, it goes back to the city – no harm done. It could be a great way to expand your property lines and it’s value by picking a vacant property adjoining yours.

HipstamaticPhoto-520371609.346943wYou can check on vacant structures at the tax delinquency office. See if they qualify to be moved into the tax sale where you or someone else can buy it. Form partnerships with neighbors to buy these structures, fix them up to sell or rent. Then you can not only control the condition of the property you can also meet new neighbors before they move in and start a neighborhood business to fuel other projects, offer small grants to support a local project. Or you can complain, make calls, email public officials, and have a meeting.

IMG_5902wThe images you see here are from a project that we took on to improve a vacant lot across the street from Splitlog Farm and the M.E. Pearson elementary school. We have worked with many partners over the years but for the last couple of years, we have been working with YouthWorks who provided us with fresh crews morning and afternoon of energetic and inspirational teenagers that offer their services because they believe that they can make a difference by helping others.

IMG_5918wIMG_5786wYouthWorks provided about 800 hours of volunteer labor over the last month,  HDR of Kansas City provided the funding and HDR Denver gave us the design to turn this weed bearing lot into an outdoor classroom and pocket park for the kids and their families. It’s a start, one vacant lot at a time.

Meet Diosselyn Tot, Community Mobilizer for CHWC

I have been very fortunate to work with a lot of young folks, mostly teens, during my time at CHWC. They are the engine of the 2,000 hours of volunteer service every year. They are the ones that work side by side with me in neighborhood alleyways, in schools, parks, and at all of our CB&E projects in the Grandview Corridor. They knock on doors, dig post holes, plant flowers and gather up all of the disguising things that people discard from their basements, cars, and pockets. Not always a fun task especially in the heat of summer or the cold of weather.

There have been many, but the original Art Squad holds that special place in my heart. They were the first to buy into using Art as an engagement tool in neighborhoods, to attract other youth, and help residents address social concerns. They did the grunt work of involving neighbors, cleaning out vacant storefronts, cutting brush and turning the soil at our urban farm. They are amazing, but since the beginning nearly 7 years ago, 1 has moved away, 2 are in college, 1 has graduated and is gainfully employed. Which is all good and they still help out when they can.

Then there is Diosselyn Tot, the first person I met under the age of 30 when I started at CHWC. She was 15 years old, a volunteer, answering the phone, filing papers, and cleaning out the refrigerator. I asked her one day if she wanted to get out of here and do work in our neighborhoods. She said yes and we have both been in these neighborhoods ever since. She helped build our first community garden, recruited other youth, passed out fliers and was one of the founding members of the Art Squad. She has worked with me for nearly 7 years, as a volunteer, as part of our summer youth program, and for the past 2 years as a part-time employee.

Diosselyn has been an amazing and essential member of the team. She has taken responsibility for all of our Art programming including the EPIC Clay Studio. She works tirelessly to organize residents to work together, and address their concerns. Communicates with all of our neighborhood leaders, mentors youth and can even fill in at the coffee shop in an emergency. She is invaluable to our mission. Diosselyn graduates from KU this spring and plans to come on full time at CHWC.

Diosselyn has fostered several projects over the last few years and today I want to share her latest. As part of her curriculum work at KU she developed a website to promote Community Building & Engagement projects and programs in the Grandview Corridor, the most densely populated and poverty-ridden, per square foot, neighborhoods in Wyandotte County. Here is the link to the site:

   Community Solutions