On Thursday, nearly 500 volunteers came together in the Village of Lincoln Heights for the 13th annual Reds Community Fund Community Makeover.
The Cincinnati Reds, P&G, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and GE Aviation teamed up to make the transformation possible at the six locations around Lincoln Heights. The six project sites included Memorial Field, Lincoln Heights Elementary, Serenity Park & Municipal Building, St. Monica’s Center, Lincoln Heights Outreach Inc. and Lincoln Heights Health Center.
In its 13th year, the Community Makeover has become perhaps the signature annual project led by the Reds Community Fund, as it brings together iconic Cincinnati organizations to not just strengthen youth baseball and softball programs in a designated Greater Cincinnati community but make an impact on the entire neighborhood to provide a benefit for years to come.
“Each year the Reds are proud to be a part of the Community Makeover and the impact that it makes on one of our communities,” said Reds president and COO Phil Castellini. “I was so impressed with what I saw here today. We are here to make connections and improve communities, and we were able to knock this out of the park with everyone’s help.”
The Village of Lincoln Heights was established in 1947, making it the first African American self-governing community north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The Village is currently home to approximately 3,300 residents and in the midst of executing a six-point strategic plan to improve the community. The objective is to address economic development, infrastructure, operations, safety, stakeholder relationship and communications, making the Makeover a perfect complement to that strategy.
“I want to thank Mr. Castellini and everyone that is here today for their vision and making this possible for Lincoln Heights,” said Lincoln Heights Mayor Ruby Kinsey-Mumphrey. “When I think about the lives that everyone has touched here today, all the volunteerism and our local partners, I just want to thank everyone. We are so thankful for all that you have done and for everyone who has come to our Village to lift us up. And when the next Makeover takes place, I want to be there so I can help support that next community as well.”
Each year, there are regular meetings and countless hours put in over an eight-month period behind the scenes before the big volunteer day. It was no different this year, except that there were also dedicated service days leading up to the culmination of the event on Thursday.
On June 11, a large contingent of volunteers participated in a Cleanup Day, which served as an unofficial kickoff to this summer’s Makeover. As a part of the day, there was a flower giveaway for Village residents, courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo and removal of the current Village mural as the first step in the mural’s restoration, among additional cleanup efforts.
By the time Thursday’s work was completed, the Zoo estimated that more than 70 trees and 1,000 perennials had been planted as part of the beautification efforts in the Village.
“The Community Makeover has become bigger year by year, with many more hours than ever put in and it’s all for the good of this community,” said Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo. “What started out as helping ballfields has really turned into something that helps communities grow. It’s a win win all the way around. The Zoo is very proud to be involved in this each year.”
The site that received the biggest transformation from the Makeover was Memorial Field. Lincoln Heights received an initial investment of $359,000 from Hamilton County for the Memorial Field renovation. This funding is helping the Makeover effort have an even greater impact at Memorial Field and throughout the Village.
At the Lincoln Heights Elementary School, additions included solar power panels, STEM resources and broadband access to go along with renovations both indoors and outdoors. OneSource and Toys For Tots also hosted a Toy Drive at the elementary school as part of the events. At Serenity Park and the village’s municipal building, work was done to improve the greenspace and playground, along with renovating indoor spaces. St. Monica’s Recreation Center received a makeover to its “Teen Room” and improved outdoor recreation space for kids.
“I wish I could be there the first day of school at Lincoln Heights Elementary to see the children’s faces when they see the results of the Community Makeover,” said Deb Whitis, executive chief consulting engineer at GE Aviation. “We at GE are especially hoping the new, brightly painted STEM lab, now stocked with fantastic materials and technology, will spark some added interest in engineering for the students. GE is grateful for this opportunity to partner with other companies in the area to be part of this transformation in the community.”
As an example of how the Community Makeover impacts the area as whole, this year’s project also extended to Lincoln Heights Outreach Inc. to build a new adult learning space and spruce up its clothing store and food pantry. Additionally, the HealthCare Connection, a nonprofit health care center that provides services to the underserved and uninsured in the area, enjoyed renovations to its location both indoors and outdoors. Among the activities there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the Lincoln Heights “Mother’s Room” at the Health Center, which will provide prenatal care and the “Centering Pregnancy” program for local women, thanks to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“Cincinnati Children’s is once again a proud sponsor of the Reds Community Makeover,” said Bobby Rodriguez, Vice President, Diversity, Inclusion & Community Relations, Cincinnati Children’s. “What we accomplished together in the village of Lincoln Heights, for children and families, will have an impact for years to come. The village has always been a special place. With improvements to the health center, the elementary school, parks and recreation areas, Lincoln Heights is an even better place to live, work and play.”
Additional project partners included OneSource Center, Cincinnati ToolBank, the Duke Energy Foundation, SonLight Power, Hamilton County and the State of Ohio.
“It’s all about the collaboration,” Castellini said. “As the partnerships and projects have grown, we’re able to do so much more. We’re really making an impact in a whole community rather than just on the field. We’re really touching the entire community, whether or not the kids play baseball or softball. And that’s really how all of our partners have helped us take it to the next level.”
Since its inception in 2010, the Community Makeover has included the following projects prior to Lincoln Heights this year:
• 2021: Avondale – Rockdale Academy, South Avondale Elementary School, Taft Boys & Girls Club, Rockdale Recreation Area, Avondale Recreation Area and Larona Park
• 2020: Avondale – South Avondale Elementary School
• 2019: St. Bernard – Ross Park, Frank Robinson Field and St. Bernard Community Room
• 2018: Roselawn – New Prospect Baptist Church and the Summit Center
• 2017: Evanston – Hoffman School, Hoffman Ballfields and Wayne Lurix Memorial Nature Playscape
• 2016: Lower Price Hill – Evans Field and playground, Community Gardens and Joe Williams Family Center
• 2015: West End – Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, Sands School playground and Dyer Ballfields
• 2014: South Cumminsville – Wayne Ballfields and Millvale Recreation Center
• 2013: Avondale – Gabriel’s Place, Hirsch Recreation Center and Hirsch ballfields
• 2012: Cheviot – Memorial Fields, historic grandstand and Cheviot Memorial Fieldhouse
• 2011: North College Hill – High school field and community center plus youth field in Winton Place
• 2010: Winton Place – Brandon Phillips Field and P&G Field