Delaware Avenue Cluster Receives Award For JRC Block Challenge

The Delaware Cluster was awarded the John A. and Oscar Johnson Award for Outstanding Neighborhood Leadership at Thursday night’s 2016 Renaissance Block Challenge Celebration. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

What originally began as a block challenge turned into the rejuvenation of several neighborhoods in 2016.

To recognize their progress, the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation held a Renaissance Block Challenge Celebration on Thursday night. Members of each neighborhood “cluster” were present for the festivities which were held at Persell Middle School.

The school was a part of the Delaware Avenue cluster, which was awarded the John A. and Oscar Johnson Award for Outstanding Neighborhood Leadership by Randy Sweeney, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation executive director and JRC board member.

Kristy Kathman, program and administrative coordinator, welcomed the crowd, and informed the group that Mary Maxwell, neighborhood project associate, was unable to be there due to illness. Kathman said Maxwell is very invested in the program and the celebration is her favorite night of the year.

She said the program is in its seventh year, and has included 350 homeowners and landowners. About $900,000 has been invested by property owners, and an estimated $375,000 has been reimbursed to property owners through small matching grants.

Sweeney announced that the Delaware Cluster won the award, beckoning their representation to the front of the room. He mentioned that their leaders, Andy and Josie Monfort, did an outstanding job.

Sweeney said the group involved not only residential properties, but also the school and a church, Conduit Ministries.

“I think it’s fantastic and very, very unique,” he said.

He said the leaders of the cluster and group members supported one another, which was also commendable. Overall, the entire Renaissance Block Challenge was meant not only to improve neighborhoods and homes, but also improve the relationships within the neighborhoods, Sweeney said.

Mentioning Len Faulk, JRC board co-chair, he said when they were growing up, everyone in a neighborhood knew everyone else.

“A lot of that has been lost over the years,” Sweeney said. “I hear that coming back. This is what we had dreamed would happen. I hope you’ll keep that going – keep in touch.”

Kathman also announced the clusters that had been selected for the 2017 Renaissance Block Challenge: Dearing; Front Street East; Front Street West; Hotchkiss; and Widrig.

She said each of these neighborhoods had entered to be in the challenge before, but had not yet been selected. The clusters represent 60 properties and will also include Ring and Lincoln elementary schools.

The 2016 Renaissance Block Challenge was made possible by the John A. and Oscar Johnson Memorial Trust with support from the Chautauqua Region Foundation; the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation; and the Lenna Foundation. The challenge also received assistance from these local businesses: Everyday’s True Value; B&L Wholesale Supply; Mike’s Nursery; Brigiotta’s Farmland Produce and Garden Center; LaMar Seamless Gutters; Kingsview Paving and Excavating; Craig’s Landscaping; Chautauqua Brick; and Sandberg Kessler Architecture, P.C. which is now Labella Associates.

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