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News & Events

News & Event

Tending to Community: LISC

Kathryne Gardette likens her neighborhood to a garden. 
 Kathryne Gardette
Kathryne Gardette at the Concord Street Community Garden in Walnut Hills.
Kathryne Gardette likens her neighborhood to a garden. 
 

“Gardening is an equalizer,” said the 20-year Walnut Hills resident. “A garden doesn’t care if you have zero dollars or a million dollars in your bank account. It just cares that you tend to it. In many ways it’s like a community, if you neglect it, it looks neglected. If you tend to it, beauty abounds.” 

While Kathryne and others have been tending their community for many years, crime, disrepair, and poverty dominated parts of the neighborhood. 

This is why in early 2000, Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky (LISC) was brought to Cincinnati by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and other partners to help transform neighborhoods. 

“GCF was instrumental in figuring out what was needed in the community to move forward, and LISC was just one part of this,” said Kathy Schwab, local executive director of LISC. “Our role was for the revitalization of neighborhoods. City neighborhoods had been disinvested in for so many years, it was hard to turn the corner.”

LISC uses a comprehensive approach to make changes in communities. This includes safety, housing, funding, job creation, education, healthy foods, supporting leadership. They help neighbors build communities. 

One of those neighborhoods is Walnut Hills. When LISC began working with the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, the 30-year-old organization was refocusing its neighborhood efforts. At that time, Kathryne was its president. 

The two organizations brought together the Walnut Hills Area Council (Kathryne is a past president), the local business community, the Cincinnati Police Department, and residents with the common goals of revitalizing the business corridor and improving safety. 

This included working with police to bring crime down  by stopping drug dealing in store fronts. Vacant and  condemned properties were bought and turned into green spaces, building facades were improved,  alleys were cleaned up, and community gardens  were created. 

Perceptions also changed by involving residents in the clean up of Five Points Alley. The once blighted spot is now a thriving meeting space for the people of Walnut Hills and visitors. Greenery, lighting, places to sit and walk create a park-like atmosphere. It backs up to new businesses, including Gomez Salsa, on Gilbert Avenue. 

“A great cross section of the neighborhood came to clean it up” said Kathryne. “A lot of that funding came from LISC. For them to say, ‘Ok, we’ll support you in cleaning up this horrible blighted area,’ was wonderful.’ 

“LISC believed in this community as much as the residents did,” Kathryne added with a big smile. “And it supports doing this in a way that is equitable, so the change is a benefit for all.

“Every community needs a Kathryne Gardette,” said Kathy. “She’s just a passionate leader.” 

Since 2000, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and its donors have granted $2.6 million to LISC of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky. LISC has received $1 million in Impact Investments as well.

GCF and its donors have given $694,250 to the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. 

Since 2000, LISC has invested $96.8 million in its five focus areas: investing in housing,increasing family income, stimulating economic development, improving access to education, and supporting healthy environments. LISC has leveraged an additional $462 million, resulting in the creation of 2,431 units of housing, and 1 million square footage of commercial space. 

LISC is one of seven backbone organizations in which GCF has invested. Backbones serve as leaders in the nonprofit community. 

Published in the 2015 Annual Report to the Community.