A Diversity of Voices
Jack Stock, Director of External Relations at Kettering, said he is proud of what the group has achieved in 10 years despite some daunting challenges that included the Flint Water Crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Dallas Gatlin, UACC co-founder and Executive Director of Carriage Town Ministries, agrees. He said he is proud the group was able to sustain many of its efforts during the pandemic because much of the work is focused on building relationships and neighboring, which is done best face-to-face.
UACC doesn’t have a charter or a leadership team of officers to encourage a “diversity of voices and keeps things from bogging down in process and procedures,” he said.
Members meet monthly at a site within the footprint to discuss projects and what’s going on at their respective organizations. The first hour of the meeting includes lunch with a presentation from a coalition member, neighborhood leader or community organization.
“The last half hour of the monthly meeting is to share what they want to share or ask what they want to ask,” Gatlin said. “... Those monthly meetings are like an anchor, and we’ve sustained them pretty well through COVID for obvious reasons.”
During the worst of the pandemic, the group met virtually a few times but tried to meet in person outside when weather permitted. Meetings run from noon to 1:30 p.m. People are welcome to stay and chat beyond the end time, but the official end is 1:30 “to avoid that dread that comes from meetings that go too long. Death by meeting: We wanted to avoid that also,” Gatlin said.
He compared the coalition’s progress to a person starting a fitness plan because you have to take small steps every day.
“The one thing that describes the University Avenue Corridor Coalition is how we can look back together and say, ‘Wow, we accomplished all of that?’” Gatlin said.
None of the larger transformations would have taken place if the coalition members hadn’t started acting as caretakers of the corridor, he said, noting it took hard work from everyone involved.
At the beginning, residents and community members were at times skeptical, “but sustained effort and some little successes building into bigger successes makes people believe that the people around them are also interested in the same problems they are,” Gatlin said.