Starting out from Sherman Park Senior Living on Fond du Lac Avenue, participants in the Neighborhood Leadership Institute carpooled to the highlights of Sherman Park on Aug. 10.
The Institute brings together grassroots community leaders to discuss issues and explore solutions to challenges in their neighborhoods. Participants meet two weekday evenings and one Saturday each month.
On Aug. 10 it was Sherman Park’s turn to host the monthly event.
After breakfast and a presentation by Wyman Winston, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, the group was off on its tour, hosted by Wendy Hamilton of the Sherman Park Neighborhood Association.
The first stop was RePurpose, a non-profit thrift and resale store at 4610 W. Fond du Lac Ave. The shop is managed by St. Charles Youth and Family Services, Inc., and provides job training and experience for at-risk teens through the Youth Employment Services (Y.E.S.) program. Most Y.E.S. participants work three hours a day, three days a week. Those 18 and older can work up to 32 hours a week. The training and work experience prepare them for entry-level employment in retail and customer-service jobs.
The group then stopped for refreshments at Sherman Perk Coffee Shop, 4924 W. Roosevelt Drive. The shop is located in a refurbished building that is one of the few unaltered examples of the Streamline Moderne style of gas stations in the country. It was vacant for almost 10 years until it was restored and opened as a coffee shop by neighborhood resident Bob Olin in 2001. The building is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks and is a favorite meeting place of Sherman Park residents.
The next stop was the community garden at the 53rd Street Community School, 3618 N. 53rd St. The garden was a finalist for the Northern Trust Navigator Award, which recognizes diverse voices and resources to improve the community. The garden sits in the lot behind the school, which shares a play area with Yeshiva Elementary School, 5115 W. Keefe Ave., an Orthodox Jewish school located across the street.
At the Sherman Multicultural Arts School, 5110 W. Locust St., the tour group observed the Sherman Park Multicultural Community Mural, a reworking of a mural that was first developed by artist Reynaldo Hernandez in 1991. Hernandez and local artist Tia Richardson spearheaded the two-year renewal project, which was done by students from the school along with parents, staff and community members. The new mural was unveiled earlier this year.
The next stop was the Footsteps of Unity, a public art project designed to remind everyone in Sherman Park that they are responsible for working together and sustaining a nurturing environment. The Footsteps are adjacent to the Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club at 3000 N. Sherman Blvd. Local artist Marina Lee worked with youths to develop, design, build and paint benches that are embedded at the base with footprints of children and include youth writings on the importance of working together.
The final stop of the tour was the headquarters of the Sherman Park Community Association, 3526 W. Fond du Lac Ave. The community association was formed in 1971 and was instrumental in stopping the Park-West and Stadium-North Freeways, which were seen as barriers to racial integration and diversity. The association continues to work to publicize the advantages of living in Sherman Park, improve communication inside and outside the neighborhood and promote innovative projects that promote integrated urban living.
Before the tour, WHEDA chief Wyman Winston explained the organization’s $200 million Transform Milwaukee initiative, which is designed to spur job creation and reduce the number of foreclosed and vacant properties in the city. It will also increase job training opportunities, reduce future flooding events and improve existing transportation systems.
The end result, Winston said, should be an increase in the number of Milwaukeeans who are working and living in their own homes. That, in turn, will reduce demands on public services and increase tax revenue for the city, he said.
The Neighborhood Leadership Institute is a partnership of four local organizations – Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Zilber Family Foundation, LISC Milwaukee and United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee (UNCOM) – in collaboration with the Cardinal Stritch University Leadership Center.