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Douglass Park nearing 100 years old, needs new family center

Members of the Martindale-Brightwood community, along with officials from the city and parks department, recently discussed the history of Frederick Douglass Park and the possibility of building a new family center.

There isn't an exact price tag on a new family center, but it would likely cost at least $15 million.

Frankie Casel, president of the group Friends of Frederick Douglass Park, said $15 million is a years-old estimate. She guessed the cost would be more like $20 million now.

The current family center is 65 years old.

Casel spoke as part of a panel that included four other people who are either longtime residents of the Martindale-Brightwood area or at least grew up using Frederick Douglass Park.

The meeting, held Jan. 23 at Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, was part of an ongoing series of community events hosted by The City League, a

men's basketball league that hosts an annual tournament.

Frederick Douglass Park, which is 99 years old, has been part of the foundation of the community, especially because of the swimming pool and golf course.

Casel said the park was a 'home away from home' for her and her three children, who moved into the area in 1971.

Elizabeth Gore, who serves on the Indianapolis Public Schools board and said she's lived in Martindale-Brightwood for more than 50 years, was on the panel and remembered her children learning to play tennis on the tennis court.

'The park has meant so much to our family,' she said.

IUPUI anthropology professor Paul Mullins gave a presentation about the history of segregation in Indianapolis and why Frederick Douglass Park — the first Indianapolis park for African Americans — was often times a central piece in the struggle for equality.

Deputy Mayor David Hampton was one of a few elected and appointed officials who spoke at the meeting.

'We have to put the love and investment into Frederick Douglass Park,' he said, 'because it's one of our historic parks.'

Gerald Trotter, one of the community members on the panel, asked why the type of fundraising effort it will take to get a new family center seems to always be left up to the community, even though it would go to benefit a public park.

City-county council member William 'Duke' Oliver explained capital improvement for parks isn't part of the city budget, but he said he would work with Friends of Frederick Douglass Park and Indy Parks Foundation for a possible fundraising collaboration.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS SERIES

The City League, a men's basketball league, hosts a series of community events throughout January and February. All events start at 6 p.m., unless otherwise noted, at Little Bethel Baptist Church, 3279 Winthrop Ave. Learn more at thecityleague.org.

Jan. 30 — Community Resource Night

Feb. 6 — Youth and Education Night

Feb. 13 — Health and Wellness Night

Feb. 20 — Job Readiness Night

Feb. 27 — Hiring Fair

Feb. 29 — Rain Barrel Workshop (starts at 10 a.m.)


Minorities, women face substantial barriers in business, study finds

Minority and woman-owned businesses are underutilized in city contracts, according to the 2019 City of Indianapolis Disparity Study, conducted by Colorado-based BBC Research and Consulting.

The findings were no surprise to Antonio Lipscomb, president of Minority Contractors Collaboration. 'I'm the only African American in the state who has a nationally accredited school through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER),' Lipscomb said. 'Even with that being the case ... a lot of these contracts go to other people that may not be plugged into the city like I am. Even though I am a minority business with the state and the city, I have never been in a position where I could even be contacted about these contracts to work.'

The study was done to assess the effectiveness of the Minority-, Women-, Veteran-, and Disabled-Owned Business Enterprise (M/W/V/DOBE) Program. Mayor William Hudnut created the program in 1984 to enhance opportunities for M/W/V/DOBE businesses in city contracting.

When it comes to minority participation in the city's con

tracting process, the study found minorityand female-owned businesses face significant barriers such as lack of mentorships, less encouragement and lack of capital.

BBC used data from Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2019. During that five-year period, the city of Indianapolis awarded $128.1 million out of $876 million to minority-owned businesses. Women and minority-owned businesses were eligible to bid on $169 million, or 19.3%, of contracts.

Companies owned by white women were awarded the majority of those funds at $74.4 million, and African American-owned businesses received the second highest percentage of funds at $53.4 million, or 6.1%.

Lipscomb hopes the findings in this study make local government more aware of the minorityowned businesses that need work.

'I can't speak to why we haven't been contacted, because I'm not behind those doors,' Lipscomb said. 'All I know is that it's not happening for me and for a lot of other businesses that I'm aware of. I'm hoping this sheds light on the fact that we are available and open for business. ... We don't want to talk any longer, we don't want to fill out additional papers, we want to be given the work.'

Dr. Sameer Bawa, managing director for BBC, said the disparity shown in the study highlights the need for the M/W/V/DOBE Program, run by the Office of Minority & Women Business Development. Bawa looked at survey responses from business owners that suggested the city should work to encourage mentorship and protegee programs for small business owners.

This study is the first of many steps toward parity in local business, according to Camille Blunt, director of the Office of Minority and Women Business Development.

The office will accept public comment on the disparity study through Feb. 29, and Blunt plans to use those comments and ideas to decide what changes can be made to the contracting process to benefit business owners.

'We're ready to get to work,' Blunt said.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

SPEAK YOUR MIND!

To share your thoughts and comments on the disparity study, email OWMBD@indy.gov by Feb. 29, 2020.


Organizations get grants to alleviate poverty

Alan Bacon

A new United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) fund will support organizations that want to implement more aggressive strategies in addressing poverty.

The large nonprofit awarded $750,000 to 14 organizations in the first round of the Social Innovation Fund, which is designed to inspire new ideas and programs when it comes to helping those who live in or near poverty.

Dress for Success Indianapolis, an affiliate of the worldwide nonprofit, will use its grant to start a new mobile services unit to reach women who don't have reliable transportation to get to the downtown location.

The organization received a $55,000 grant, according to Shayla Pinner, director of marketing and development.

That money will be used to purchase vans large enough to carry clothes and technology such as laptops.

Other Dress for Success affiliates already have a similar transportation system, but Pinner said the Indianapolis staff — which consists of six full-time and two part-time employees — is too small to pull off that kind of expansion.

'We've never had the capacity really to go out into the community,' Pinner said. 'It's been all hands on deck here.'

The organization will hire a mobile services coordinator to successfully implement the program. The job is posted at indydfs. org.

'I think what's gonna happen is we will be able to serve a lot of women who would never think that they may might be able to be one of our clients,' Pinner said.

Flanner House will use its grant to extend its farming operation with a greenhouse that Executive Director Brandon Cosby said will have more than 15,000 square feet of growing space.

'Our farming operation has been fairly successful, but that's really limited based off of weather,' he said. 'This will allow us to provide fresh produce options year-round.'

Flanner House will grow the food through a method called aeroponics, which uses fish waste as fertilizer and doesn't require soil.

Cosby said locals from the community will be hired as part of the expansion, and the goal is for the newly acquired skills — he described aeroponics requiring 'advanced skills' — to be transferrable to high-wage jobs.

When it comes to the work nonprofits do to try to alleviate poverty, the emphasis is usually on just making sure the bottom doesn't fall out. Families and individuals are in need right now, so reassurance that bigger change is on the way doesn't help them in the interim. But the projects UWCI is funding through its Social Innovation Fund are forward-looking.

Alan Bacon, senior director of the fund, See UWCI A7®

said UWCI is in a position to both serve people now and try to find solutions to poverty.

'What are we not deploying in the community currently that we could actually start to explore to really see if we can move the needle and solve some of these issues, versus just providing the safety net?' Bacon said.

That safety net is still important, he said, but it doesn't have to be the only focus.

'Without the safety net, the solutions look different,' Bacon said. 'And without solutions, the safety net would get too robust and maybe break.'

Other organizations that received funding included Exodus Refugee Immigration, Trinity Haven, Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry (PACE) and Crossroads Education.

Bacon warned the annual fund probably won't produce successful programs and ideas every time, but that's because of the aggressive nature of what the fund is meant to accomplish.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.