Southwest Cleanup

This Saturday, as part of MSU’s Global Day of service, 35 volunteers came from Michigan State to the Southwest Lansing neighborhood. The students came eager to work, and along with community partners, started on two cleanup project.

The first project was a Southwest Action Group (SWAG)-partnered cleanup of the Pleasant Grove/Holmes intersection. Volunteers swept the dirt off of the sidewalk, collected trash, and raked leaves away from the storm drains.


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Cleanup around the Southwest Businesses.
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Volunteers remove bagfuls of trash dumped behind the SWAG businesses.
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A volunteer uses a leaf blower to remove gravel and leaves from the sidewalk.

The second project was led by the South Side Community Coalition (SSCC), and involved clearing brush from the vacant lot behind the SSCC building, in preparation for future lot activation.

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Brush clearing behind the SSCC building.
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Removal of a hanging limb.








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450 cubic feet of brush was cleared from the lot

Here are some metrics from the event:

  • Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM
  • Number of Volunteers: 38
  • Total Volunteer Hours: 190
  • Bags of Trash: 24
  • Bags of Yard Waste: 3
  • Cubic  Feet of Brush Removed: 450

Thank you to MSU, the Ingham County Treasurer’s Office, 1910 Meat Market, BW Hair Fashions, Center of the Plate, the SSCC, and the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition for everything they did to make this event a success!




Succession Planning for Neighborhood Organizations

One of the biggest challenges that neighborhood organizations have is what to do when the president or other integral member leaves. Organizations that are not prepared for a leadership shift run the risk of falling apart. It is important to start planning beforehand, by preparing your organization for whatever happens in the future.

1. Note potential leadership within your organization.

Get to know your organization members, and keep them involved. If members are given responsibility (managing events, keeping contact lists, etc.) you may notice potential leadership skills in them. They may also be more willing to step into a larger position in the future.

2. Continuously recruit new members.

An organization works best when it has a mix of old and new members working together. An organization that recruits new members and gives them a voice has a better chance of finding new leaders than one that closes itself off from new people or opinions.

3. Stay Organized

Make sure that you have clear documentation of finances, events, and contacts, to make sure nothing important slips through the cracks during a leadership change. Being organized will make it easier for a new leader to continue work that was administered by their predecessor.

4. Address underlying conflicts

Oftentimes conflicts can erupt amidst a leadership change, which puts the organization at risk. Make sure you address conflicts among members when they first come up, instead of letting them simmer under the surface. Be sure that all sides of an argument are being heard.

5. Define a role

If you know a member will be leaving the organization in the near future, make sure they leave clear guidelines for the next person to follow. This could be a summary of their role, lessons learned, or even a number to reach if they have any questions.


12 Tips for Being a Good Community Leader

Qualities of a Good Leader

Regardless of your style or skills, there are some ingredients that can contribute significantly to effective leadership:

  1. Be inclusive: It’s important to include all of your neighbors, including
    • Residents from all economic, religious, ethnic background
    • Other “neighbors” like faith communities, schools, and businesses who play important roles in the neighborhood and have valuable leadership skills, resources, and networks of contacts to offer.
  1. Cultivate networks of relationships: Relationships do not exist in a vacuum. One person is connected through relationship to many others. Cultivating a relationship with that person, therefore, is like connecting with the entire “network” of relationships they have already developed. Cultivating networks of relationships, then, can be about building relationships with others who have specific expertise that might also benefit your neighborhood.
  1. Delegate: Share responsibility (either through forming committees or asking individuals to take responsibility) for the major neighborhood functions, including
    • Meetings (logistics, agendas, minutes
    • Finances, communication (phone calls, newsletter, flyers, etc.
    • Point of contact (both within the neighborhood and with the City, County, the LPD, and other important bodies
    • social gatherings
    • neighborhood project
    • other activities.
  1. Assist others to develop their leadership skills: Help people discover skills in service to the neighborhood’s needs—cultivate the next generation of leadership. One good way of assisting others to develop their leadership skills is to release control over how others approach the tasks they’ve volunteered for. That is, avoid micromanaging!
  1. Communicate, particularly with those who don’t attend meetings and events. Be sure to share information both about neighborhood activities and other events/activities of interest. Useful skills include dialogue (as opposed to debate), listening (as opposed to lecturing), and transparency (as opposed to hoarding information and/or being secretive).
  1. Provide a vision that will keep people engaged. Remind people of the big picture and long- term goals. Always have a vision-driven purpose for having a meeting.
  1. Know your and your neighborhood’s assets and limits. Build on your strengths and don’t exceed your limitations.
  1. Be a learner. Acknowledge both your successes and your mistakes and use them all as ways to improve your leadership skills.
  1. Appreciate and celebrate: Thank people for the work they do and celebrate your neighborhood achievements.
  1. Motivate yourself and others: When times are tough or slow you have to be able to motivate yourself and others to push through.
  1. Relate to others: Leaders have to present themselves in a way people can relate to and be considerate of others. This means not engaging in gossip and respecting other people’s privacy.
  1. Collaborate: Work with other neighborhood groups and community leaders on tasks and issues in order to get the most information and create strong neighborhood connections.


Mapping Tools for Your Organization

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems, which are tools that are used to express information onto maps. GIS maps can be used by organizations to more clearly explain neighborhood conditions and problems, or can just be used to show people where they live. The City is available to help organization with their GIS needs.

Uses for Neighborhood Organization

Neighborhood Maps: A simple map showing where the boundaries of the neighborhood you serve is great to have on hand, and can help show residents which neighborhood they live in. They can also show information like where block captains or members of your group reside.

Parcel Maps: A parcel map is used to show where property lines lie in an area, and can be useful for development projects or property disputes.

Land Use Map: A land use map shows the function of each property, and can show zoning and parks/waterways.

Data Map: Demographic maps can show all kinds of data, including, but not limited to:

  • Which houses are red tagged
  • Where the flood plain or floodway lies
  • Where federally designated CDBG designated areas are
  • Assessed housing values
  • Crime statistics

Create a Map

For more information on how to have a map created, or how to create and collect data, please contact Scott Thompson at Lansing’s Neighborhood Resource Team, at, or 517-483-4075.

Available Resources

Here are some links to current maps that the City has available:

Info and Tips For Avoiding Code Violations

No one likes to hear that they have a code violation. That being said, Lansing’s Code Enforcement department exists to ensure that the homes are safe and healthy to live in, and that the property values of a neighborhood are protected. So make sure you and your neighbors’ properties are up to code with some of these steps:

  • Check out the Code Enforcement website. Here, you can find information on how to file a complaint, understand code violations, learn who your code enforcement officer is, and learn what steps to take to resolve code issues.
  • Code Enforcement officials are happy to come to your neighborhood and community meetings to provide information and answer questions on housing and enforcement. If you would like someone to come to your meeting, call the number listed below.
  • Learn exactly what Code Enforcement Officers are looking for by watching CEO Walter Allen on the job in this video.

For any specific questions, contact the Code Enforcement Office at 517-483-4361 or

Thanks for continuing to make Lansing a great place to live!


Walking Wednesday: Baker Neighborhood


We went to Baker Neighborhood this week for our biggest Walking Wednesday yet. Twenty-nine people from the neighborhood, the City, and across Lansing came together to walk the neighborhood, and to hear about the exciting new projects that are in the works. Baker Neighborhood is on the Southside, and is bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue to the east, Cedar Street to the west, Mt. Hope Avenue to the South, and the Red Cedar River to the north.

We started off at Cesaer/Donora park with a discussion regarding the Mayor’s Block by Block (B3) Initiative. B3 is a collaboration between community leaders and residents and City officials to revitalize neighborhoods. Since Baker is the first target neighborhood, this Walking Wednesday was particularly exciting, as we got to see the neighborhood’s many assets that can be built upon.


29 People showed up to tour the Baker Neighborhood
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Caesar/Donora Park

Cesaer/Donora Park was the first great asset we saw in the neighborhood. It has a pavilion, a playground, and stunning foliage. We also walked by the Red Cedar River, and saw the amazing autumn foliage that residents get to live by. Making our way up Beulah Street, we headed towards the train tracks, where we were able to see some of the industrial buildings that the neighborhood was built around. This area, much like the rest of the Baker neighborhood has recently seen a resurgence of development and energy.

Walking down Fayette Street
Planning Director Bob Johnson and Baker Neighborhood Watch Captain Betty Draher
Walking by the rail that runs through the neighborhood.
The Red Cedar River, as viewed from Beulah Street

It was great to see so many people in the neighborhood take an interest in the Baker Neighborhood. There is definitely an energy building in the community, and it will be exciting to see what’s next for the neighborhood.

Also, come out to the Baker Neighborhood tomorrow, and help volunteer for the CDGB clean up. The clean up is an opportunity for residents to dispose of bulk items at no cost to themselves. The clean up crew will meet at Cesaer Donora Park at 7:30AM.

NAM Conference Coming to Lansing

Neighborhood Associations of Michigan is coming to Lansing for their Annual Conference Friday, September 9th, and Saturday, September 10th. The City of Lansing is excited to host this year,  as we will be able to hear about neighborhoods across the state. We also have the opportunity to take neighborhood leaders on a bus tour of our city, to show some of the things we have going on here. Here are the projects we will be focusing on:

Averill Woods School & Community Garden: Established in 2010, this garden allows a space for neighbors to come together and grow food. The garden partners with Averill Elementary School, and provides an educational experience for students working with their teachers in the garden.

Southwest Lansing Initiative: The SLI is a priority neighborhood planning effort supported by the State of Michigan Economic Development Agency with direct support from the Governor’s office. Focused at the area around Pleasant Grove and Holmes, the initiative is focused on creating a residential and commercial market study to identify new opportunities to help grow the area.

REO Town: REO Town is an historic neighborhood on the Southside, that is undergoing a great number of changes. The tour will focus on the growth and development of the neighborhood, as well as the pocket parks throughout the neighborhood that builds on the strong sense of community Reo Town has.

1112 Prospect Playground: A number of partners, including Sparrow Hospital, the Association for the Bingham Community, the Ingham County Land Bank, and the City of Lansing helped to develop what was previously a empty lot, into a playground for a neighborhood that previously did not have a place for children to play.

Westside/Dunneback Park Trail Project: This project is designed to connect the Westside and Old Oakland Neighborhoods with the rest of the city, by creating a trail that crosses through Westside and Dunneback Parks, and connects to the neighborhood on the other side of Oakland Rd. and Saginaw St. It has been a collaboration of a number of partners.

We are excited to show off some of our exciting projects to leaders across Michigan. This conference and tour will be an opportunity not only to tell everyone about what we’re doing here in Lansing, but to learn about what neighborhood leaders are doing in other cities.

Walking Wednesday: Moores Park Neighborhood


Moores Park Neighborhood is located at the northern tip of Lansing’s Southside. This week we got to meet with Natalie Molnar, who took us around the neighborhood to see how things were in the community.

One of the projects we got to hear about is a Love Your Block Mini-Grant project that will be completed soon. The Moores Park Neighborhood Association is coordinating the creating of a sign, which will welcome people to the neighborhood. The neighborhood is currently very close-knit, and hosts many events year round. The sign will help strengthen the sense of identity that the neighborhood has.

We toured the neighborhood, starting at the St. Casmir-Moores Park Community Garden. The garden is on a large plot on Barnes Avenue, and supports the whole neighborhood with its vegetables, as well as flowers and other plants.

We were also to check out Moores Park, which the neighborhood is based around. The park is nestled against the Grand River’s south shore, overlooking the GM Assembly Plant. There are several amenities to the park that draw crowds from across the city, including playground equipment, a pavilion, as well as open fields and trees. The park is connected to the rest of the city by the Lansing River Trail.

It was exciting to visit the Moores Park Neighborhood this week. We’re all excited to see the completed project, which will be a great asset to an already great neighborhood.

St. Casmir-Moores Park Community Garden on West Barnes Avenue
Some of the many plants growing in the garden.
Seeing the neighborhood.
Plants in the median, one of the beautification efforts in the neighborhood.
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Playground Equipment in Moores Park.

Potter Walsh Neighborhood Cleanup



This past Saturday, I had the privilege to join the Potter Walsh Neighborhood Clean-up. The goal of a clean-up is to have neighbors bring out the bulk items they have lying around, and have garbage trucks come in and dispose of them. This is a valuable service for a community, as it helps to clean up the neighborhood at no cost to the resident.

We met at 8:00 AM in front of the Eastside Community Action Center. The clean-up started out dry, but the rain started to fall shortly after . This didn’t stop around a dozen volunteers from helping out . The group was led by Willie Davis, a  man who has lived in the Potter Walsh Neighborhood for years, and was thrilled to see so many people eager to help. We split up into teams of three (one for each truck), and drove around the streets, looking for bulk items at the curb. In our team, roughly 10 or 15 houses took advantage of this opportunity, and they made it clear what a service this was. The curbs were piled with items, including old televisions, toys, broken electronics, furniture, and many other items that have piled up for years. Our team was able to knock out our portion of the neighborhood in an hour and a half. By this time we were all thoroughly soaked, but we got through a huge amount of trash, and were able to see how thrilled residents were to see a clean-up in action.

If your neighborhood is interested in hosting a clean-up day, please submit the Clean-up application below or contact the Neighborhood Resource Coordinator, Andi Crawford, at 517-372-5980.




Walking Wednesday: Holmes Street School Community

Due to a sudden (and much needed) thunderstorm, we had a shorter and more localized Walking Wednesday this week. However, we still got a chance to meet with MaryBeth Van Horn and Kelly Groll, who was able to give us a tour of the community garden, which also happens to be a Love Your Block project! The garden sits by the corner of Holmes St. and Malcolm X Blvd, and is open to any neighbors who want to use a plot to grow vegetables or flowers.

The garden has gone through several improvements over the past year. They have constructed a wooden walkway made out of donated material, in order to make it easier to get from plot to plot. HSSC, with help from students at Michigan State University, constructed worm pipes, which are designed to encourage worms to fertilize the soil. Perhaps most noticeably is the new Rain Water Collection structure at the back of the property.

Perhaps most exciting, as MaryBeth noted, is that the garden is a Poke Stop for Pokemon Go players, meaning the garden is being seen by a lot more people!

The garden is a definite asset to the Holmes Street School Community.


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In spite of the drought and a local groundhog infestation, the garden is looking good!

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The new rainwater collection facility

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Newly installed lights


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A full view of the garden from the back.

For more information:

Holmes Street School Community Association

Holmes Street School Community Facebook Page