REAP kicked off its neighborhood beautification efforts on April 25, 2018 in celebration of Earth Day by cleaning up the area and planting flowers around MLK and South Grand Avenue. Neighborhood beautification was identified during the REAP engagement sessions as a top priority. Aaron Pinkston-El was selected as our beautification leader and MLK Boulevard between Cook and South Grand was chosen as our target area. The Family Communications Centers coordinated the activities and provided delicious kabobs cooked by J Squared.
We contacted the City of Springfield who provided us with vests, gloves and garbage bags and we inquired about the Adopt-A-Street program. After our second clean-up in this area, we decided to pursue an official Adopt-A-street designation which requires three clean-ups per year in our target area to earn our official Adopt-A-Street sign.
At our second clean-up on November 10, 2018, we received some unexpected support from the guys at the barber shop. When Christopher Jones learned our grill connection fell through and we couldn’t cook food for our volunteers, he went back into the barber shop, took up a collection to purchase us a grill and went and bought one for us saving the day for our hungry crew. So don’t forget to support Trim Setter Barber Studios for all your hair care needs.
In 2019, Allissa Hall, Aaron Pinkston-El and DeAndre Neal coordinated four successful community clean-ups along our target area officially earning us our Adopt-A-Street sign from the City. The final clean-up was conducted in partnership with Alderman Shawn Gregory and, for the first time, we released a press notice on the event. The State Journal-Register included a short blurb and several new community members participated as a result. WANDTV shot video and interviewed DeAndre Neal. Our continued presence and steadfast effort have established trust in the neighborhood and two area businesses are conducting regular cleanings of their areas.
In 2020, UAct supported and participated in REAP Adopt-A-Street cleanups and REAP READs, an exciting new book delivery program for kids in Poplar Place, Brandon Court and Lake Victoria led by Allissa Hall.
S.H.A.R.E United and FCC join forces to urge the creation of an active public space at Kiwanis Park designed for local area residents. UAct President developed an informal survey to assess area resident needs and wants regarding Kiwanis Park. Team Reap and S.H.A.R.E United canvassed the area in one day with 62 respondents representing 160 adults and 100 children. UAct also wrote a proposal entitled Kiwanis Park Improvements to Benefit Local Area Residents for Park District consideration.
In partnership with UAct, the Family Communications Centers and S.H.A.R.E. United, the Springfield Park District hosted a Movie Night on August 3, 2018 at Kiwanis Park featuring Black Panther.
Approximately 100 people young and old enjoyed the movie, free popcorn provided by UAct, and concessions by Andrew Cornett. Pre-movie activities hosted by UAct, FCC and S.H.A.R.E. United provided balloon twisting for the kids, fresh produce from genHkids Coalition and physical fitness activities by Sports Unlimited.
Also, Hewitt Douglas and AFSCME Local 2600 provided $100 toward bottled water and Gena Lathan and Marcia Dean donated water and ice.
In 2019, REAP again sponsored pre-movie activities for the Springfield Park District’s Movie in the Park at Kiwanis Park. UAct purchased free popcorn for attendees.
UAct hopes to continue working with the Springfield Park District to help make Kiwanis Park a place for the neighboring community’s use and support.
As a founding Board member of genHkids, UAct President facilitated a dialogue about working more closely together. Those conversations led to a partnership to revitalize genH’s community garden at Poplar Place.
Team REAP and FCC participated in the Garden Work Day kick-off event on July 19, 2018 that featured genH-sponsored salsa and dip making, a bee hive and educational presentation by George Sinclair and seed bomb making with Rebbeca Luke. REAP members Aaron Pinkston-El and DeAndre Neal helped maintain the garden and conducted community outreach to promote the effort. REAP support staff Sara Jacobs coordinated event logistics.
UAct will continue to partner with genH in 2019 at to promote “eating real” and “moving more.”
In 2016, UAct President helped DeAndre Neal refine his idea into a comprehensive proposal for an anti-violence initiative called SELF. UAct continues to work with DeAndre to develop the program, explore partnerships and seek funding.
In connection with SELF, an anti-violence march and outdoor dinner table discussion, sponsored by the Springfield Community Federation, UAct, Keep It 200 and Calvary Baptist Church, was held in June, 2017 to discuss the recent spike in violence in East Springfield and seek community solutions. Approximately 75 area residents and community leaders participated.
The UAct website and Facebook page highlights key national, state and local urban issues to stimulate broad support to Restore the Core. In 2017, UAct welcomed Rebecca Jo Luke to help update UAct’s website, keep the Facebook page current and active and assist to promote UAct and its initiatives. Check out and Like our FB page
Team REAP helped main organizer, Germaine Jones and his S.H.A.R.E United group, clean-up Lake Victoria on June 9th, 2018.
Ten bags of garbage were removed from the shoreline, walking path and under the bridge along with a shopping cart, a toy trike and other unsightly trash. Plus two benches received a needed fresh coat of paint.
Many community partners supported the Lake Victoria Clean-up: the Springfield Park District donated clean-up equipment, paint and garbage pick-up; REAP members came out in support of fellow REAP member, Germaine; Pastor Emmanuel Odele and members of his congregation at Faith Ministries International volunteered and used the church for volunteers to meet; Alderman Herman Senor donated donuts and juice and to Calvin Pitts of B.O.N.E., LLC donated work gloves.
UAct is formally partnered with the Family Communications Center (FCC), a nonprofit, 501(C)3, organization founded and directed by Allissa Hall. FCC’s mission is to enrich the lives of children, youth and families by providing a safe, conflict-free environment; promoting positive parenting, healthy individuals and communities. UAct and Alissa also worked together in 2016 and 2017 when Alissa served as Executive Director of the Springfield Community Federation (SCF). Then UAct helped SCF staff, DeAndre Neal, design and develop Community Health Connections, a community health worker program.
UAct and FCC are working together to advance each organization’s mission.
The Urban Action Network designed and developed the Resident Engagement and Action Project or REAP, provides funding for the initiative and directed its activities from 2017 – 2019. In 2018, Allissa Hall, Executive Director of the Family Communication Centers, worked in close partnership with REAP hosting its monthly meetings and supporting REAP activities. In 2020, REAP officially became a program of the Family Communication Centers supported by the Urban Action Network.
REAP seeks to foster concrete neighborhood-level improvement in East Springfield first by creating a collective vision among residents for positive change followed by the implementation of resident-generated and resident-led community-building strategies and actions. By tapping into the energy, creativity and resilience of local resident activists, REAP cultivates ongoing, trusted relationships among East Springfield residents who are working together to build a thriving, cohesive neighborhood.
REAP began hosting Friday evening, 2-hour sessions on July 7, 2017 with 12-17 identified residents. Engagement sessions were facilitated by DeAndre Neal and Sam Johnson. Every other Friday evening, participants followed structured agendas that encouraged lively and open dialogue in both large and small groups and enjoyed a delicious dinner provided by Queen B catering.
Participants shared their thoughts on topics such as the impact of poverty on their communities, why violence occurs in their neighborhoods, the impact of drugs and incarceration of males on families and female heads of households, stigmas associated with mental health, and more. The sessions quickly move from the identification of broad challenges to asking participants to visualize their ideal neighborhoods, community asset mapping and the generation of ideas for small-scale, doable actions they can accomplish in their neighborhoods.
In 2019, in addition to four Adopt-A-Street clean-ups and participation in the Kiwanis Park Movie night, REAP staffed an information table at the annual Juneteenth celebration with newly printed REAP & UAct promotional posters and displayed our new banner.
REAP, in coordination with the Sustain Springfield Green Map, hosted and staffed an informational table at Springfield’s Annual Earth Day celebration.