[ Update ]
Over 70 students, faculty and staff traveled to East St. Louis this past weekend. The group represented students from Urban Planning, Architecture and Social Work. We completed 10 different projects that ranged from flyering a neighborhood to rebuilding picnic tables at Jones Park, the largest community park in East St. Louis. Please see individual project descriptions below.
At the request of the South End New development Organization we flyered/surveyed the entire South End neighborhood passing out close to 1000 SENDO Brochures. Students worked in teams with a resident leader to assist them. We collected more than 100 names and addresses of residents that were interested in participating in SENDO's work. We will update the SENDO mailing list and continue to encourage this new group of people to participate by mailing them invitations to SENDO's monthly meetings.
This was a very successful and quick project. The success was due to the high level of commitment from the students and the leadership from Prof. Andrejasich. In total there were about 7 students mainly from the urban planning department at the U of I and 3 residents working on the project. Our site is owned by the family of the Village Theatre and is located two lots from their theatre. We had two tasks. Our first task was to secure a tarp onto a one story garage that would temporarily provide moisture resistance to an already leaking roof system. (The future vision is to totally reconstruct the roof during the spring semester. This building will serve as a storage unit for various equipment for the Village Theatre.) The second task was to deconstruct an exterior overhang that was attached to the garage. To do this we broke up into two teams with one group working on the roof while the other group worked on the deconstruction. After hours of tacking down the tarp, getting burned by the hot sun, drinking lots of gatorade, cutting through countless pieces of wood, and successfully managing to do all of this without any accidents (although I came close to falling through the roof) we completed the project in one day and headed towards the Ramada Inn ready for food and a good nights sleep!
On Saturday my group now of 8-11 (depending on the time of day) continued to show their hard work by deconstructing and reconstructing a set of picnic tables in the middle of a major park in East St. Louis. The picnic tables are in a beautiful setting adjacent to a large lake and surrounded by trees; however, when we found them they were hidden by over growth and also covered in a layer of growth. Not too appetizing! We decided that the underneath side of the tables and benches were quite nice though. We ended up cleaning up the brush and deconstructing all of the picnic tables. We were able to reconstruct about half of them using the old wood "bottom side up." This clever idea saved us a ton of money! Thanks to the hard work we completed our goal in record time and saved the rest of the wood to give back to the park district. Lastly we laid down a "beautiful" coat of paint to seal the wood and give the tables a fresh look. The "new" picnic tables will hopefully attract people to gather for family reunions or just a place to relax. Thanks to all who participated for a job well done and if you are wondering the rest of the picnic tables will be reconstructed at the November Outreach weekend.
Students from the Neighborhood Planning class (UP 474) have been researching an offer to buy-out the residents of Rush City. On Saturday, the group walked the neighborhood to get a feel for the boundaries and also collected data to be further researched. After lunch, the group went to the Rush City Community Center and met with Rush City residents, as well as Kathleen O’Keefe, an attorney who has been working with the neighborhood for nearly ten years. The residents were given a quick synopsis of what the class focus groups have been researching. The five areas of research are: neighborhood context/history/ conditions, environmental considerations, proposed industrial development, proposed housing development and the option agreement. The residents were then asked if they could fill in any gaps in the research, specifically the neighborhood context and history. The class was then treated to stories of Rush City as a flourishing neighborhood. The meeting concluded with residents suggesting areas they would be interested in learning about, specifically how the buy-out option would affect them.
My group assisted to elderly women with some chores that they needed to be done. At the first house we helped move some old furniture out of her basement onto the curb outside. At the second house, we raked, picked up trash in the front yard, and around the curb.
East St. Louis Buying Guide: 7 Students, 1 GA, 1 2-wheel (NOT 4 wheel) drive Ford Excursion, Friday and Saturday. Our group of UP 260 students was tasked with the goal of creating a guide to the unique shops that operate in East St. Louis and surrounding areas, in order to increase their visibility to both visitors and residents. ESLARP had provided us with a basic list of 12 businesses to include, but we were also planning on stopping at additional places that we discovered as we drove around the area. This was the second phase of the buying guide; during September's trip we created a listing of area restaurants. After arriving in ESTL on Friday morning, the group took a tour of the city, while the GA helped set up lunch, including an emergency fork run to the local Schnuck's. Everything was going quite smoothly until we decided to head out to our first shop; a Christian book store on the eastern side of the city. Mapquest lead us astray, and we ended up on a dead end residential street. With a big SUV, the GA overestimated his ability to go off road, and we ended up with the vehicle's right front tire stuck in a uncovered drainage ditch, that was covered by grass and weeds. The Excursion was resting on its frame, and would not move because the front tires had no power. After 45 minutes of coming up with various plans for getting ourselves free, a quick call back to the U of I Motor pool gave us a solution, and we freed ourselves with some physical exertion. It was not a total loss though, as Andrea and Senait made fast friends with some nice neighborhood dogs. We quickly made up for lost time, visiting 10 stores during the remainder of the afternoon, and another 8 on Saturday, for a total of 18 shops to be included in the guide. They include beauty shops, clothing stores, printing services, a recording studio/tire shop, hardware stores, a health foods store, and wig shops. Most of the shop owners were only too eager to be a part of the guide, and were friendly and accommodating. The weekend also included an always exciting trip to the Village Theatre for some talented acts in a Star Showcase, and ice cream at Pirdle's, an ESTL institution.
The group met with Martha Lawrence and Mrs. Suttle at the Joseph Center, which is expected to open in November. Items discussed in the meeting were the format and content of a flier for the recruitment of a board member; the updating of the organization’s website, and the current state of the Joseph Center facility. The groups also participated in a tour of the facility, which was led by contractor Daniel Youngblood. The wiring and plumbing are almost complete; the steps needed are putting up drywall, the ceiling panels, smoothing of the floors, and painting. Interest was expressed for a future group to provide labor help in painting or for other tasks needed to finish the facility. After the tour and the meeting, the group mowed and picked up litter from the green spaces surrounding the center. The group decided to create both a flier and a brochure, and will also update the website with current information and better graphics. In conclusion, it was a productive meeting since both the organization and the group exchanged information successfully.
The group met with about 25 YouthBuild students to talk about their college experiences, and answering questions about college. Each student introduce themselves, and what major they were in and talked about why they decided to come to the University of Illinois, how they choose their majors, and what were some of the bad and good experiences that have happened to them well at the university. The YouthBuild students ask questions about how they can get financial assistance, about academic programs that would help each of them fit in better at the university, and about the social part of college life.
UIUC social work students, studying community organizing, visited YouthBuild, a charter school in the Emerson Park neighborhood of East St. Louis. In response to recent incidents that have claimed the lives of several classmates, YouthBuild students have taken to the streets to rally the community and proclaim a "Cease Fire!". The social work students heard personal accounts from students and school staff who participated in these demonstrations. Building on the insights gained from this trip, the social work students will now write for YouthBuild a report highlighting community organizing best practices in relation to gun violence issues in the East St. Louis area.
Kathy Andria of the American Bottom Conservancy gave a mixed group of students a tour through toxic and polluted areas of East St. Louis. The tour looked at the major polluting industries and their affect on the surrounding community. Across from Big River Zinc, a factory in Sauget, one can find a bright green fenced-in lawn that happens to be a superfund site. The group traveled all over East St. Louis and noted neighborhoods that were adjacent to factories and looked at the pollution they face everyday. The group was shown natural areas that were actually quite polluted. Kathy also pointed out wetlands and low-lying areas known as the American Bottoms as well as many examples of homes and buildings that were often flooded because of improper development techniques.
Our project was a yard cleanup. For that work, nine UP260 students, one volunteer from Architecture department and myself were involved. When we got to the site, the yard attached to the house looked like a jungle! First, we divided into three groups. One group trimmed trees and the other mowed grass and the rest removed branches and grass debris from mowing and trimming. Since the yard hadn't been maintained for a quite along time it was a good place for insect habitats. So, we had a lot of bug bites while cleaning the yard. So, when we finished the yard cleaning, the site looked totally different. It was like a yard in the Versailles palace in France - a little exaggeration though!! All of us were very excited at the achievement we made over the weekend. The weather was nice and we enjoyed the work!! Definitely, it was good time for all of us and fun!
Last modified: November 8, 2005 ; Vicki Eddings