Where did April go? How can it be May? There’s been so much awesome stuff going on within the community it’s making our heads’ spin.
Our 7 action groups are on their way to implementing our 29 community goals. We are actually ahead of schedule with completing our community plan! We have 45 community partners to date and are always looking for more. (If you're interested in joining our initiative please contact Jessie via email@example.com.)
On April 20th our funding organization, Legacy Foundation, had us present our annual review to the Knight Foundation. We decided to make a 6 minute trailer of all that’s happened during Gary’s Miller Spotlight Initiative from Feb 2015- Feb 2016.
ACTION GROUP UPDATES:
**Education/ Child Youth Programming
They pitched the Jr. Block Club idea. $50,000 was at stake. The jury picked IUN and Blue1647 to receive the award. The Parks Department and City expressed some interest and possible partnerships to help get the Jr. Block Club started. Our Education/ Youth & Child Programming Action Group is going to research these options for summer 2017.
This action group has also submitted an MCF grant for Harvest Fest 2016. 2015’s Harvest Fest was a roaring success with 200+ people attending and twenty three Gary 501c3s participating. It was a great showcase for area families to discover all Gary has to offer them. They look forward to an even bigger turnout this fall!!
On May 10th Miller Spotlight & the MBACD hosted an Acting Up Potluck. Folks brought dishes, or snacks. Eleven people attended this event. While we had fun and good food, we also discussed ideas for the Awesome Foundation's micro-grant initiative. Communities across Chicagoland hosted potlucks to brainstorm micro-grants that will help their neighborhoods on May 10th too.
The Awesome Foundation is a global community advancing the interest of awesome in the universe, $1000 at a time.Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter's "trustees" and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.
We chose to submit a grant for reflector vests for local volunteer groups. The vests will say “Community Volunteer” on the back. These vests will serve 3 purposes:
2.Unite all of our volunteer groups in a visually identifiable manner
3. Advertise the spirit of volunteerism and engage/ educate our community on how to
become active/ all our volunteers do within our community
***Looks for our grant video very soon!
**Environment and Eco Tourism
This group is investigating/ pursuing how to get their Miller Attractions Map as an advertisement on the South Shore.
They also helped us write 3 grants. We didn’t get the NIPSCO one but are waiting to hear about American Waters and the Environmental Justice grant. They are promoting our existing and upcoming ecotourism/ environmental activities and attractions via social media platforms, word of mouth and traditional media outlets.
**Access Miller (Transportation and Infrastructure)
On Thursday, 4/14/16 from 1-4pm Great Lakes ADA, Miller Spotlight and Barrier Free Beach hosted a website accessibility workshop at the MJGC.
Janet Peters, Project Coordinator of Accessible Technology for the Great Lakes ADA Center facilitated the workshop. 21 people from a variety of Gary institutions/ organizations attended. Janet has worked to promote full and unrestricted participation in society for persons with disabilities through the promotion of technology that is accessible to all.
Canoe Launch Update:
Our ADA canoe/ kayak launch will be installed soon! The ribbon cutting ceremony will be on 6/25/16 at the Annual Water Celebration. The launch is ordered. It costs $32,000 to buy and install. The permits have been garnered. Gary’s Miller Spotlight's Access Miller Action Group and Barrier Free Beach 2020 volunteers so far have gotten a Transform Lake County Grant for $25,000.00.
We have several smaller grants out that we should hear about in the next 2-3 weeks. A generous local donor is willing to match up to $3,500 of the remaining $7,000 of funds needed to complete this project. Thanks to the generous 40 donors (38 online and 2 in person) we have raised a collective $3300.
We just have $200 left to go until we meet our goal! Any additional funds raised or earned through the grants we've submitted will go towards adding visual and auditory amenities. Universal design is part of our community plan.This will help us complete our community plan for universal design and be a great tourist attraction. We will do the ribbon cutting at Gary’s Clean Water Celebration on 6/25/16. If you are feeling generous you can donate to our GoFundMe page.
Video of our awesome sister community’s (Michigan City) launch. This is what ours will look like but we’re hoping to add LED lights, guide ropes and auditory amenities.
***FUN FACT: This launch is getting done in record time and very affordably. Other Hoosier communities have spent upwards of $132,000 on purchasing and installing the exact same launch and it’s also taken several years to get completed in the past. We are getting it done in 7 months (start to finish) and for $32,000.
How is this humanly possible? Well, Marquette Park’s infrastructure is a huge bonus as barely any modifications had to occur to make this launch get installed. The community, partnering organizations and municipal entities have all decided to make accessible attractions a priority. So, the permitting process was relatively smooth. Go volunteers and teamwork!
Access for All Series Update:
We are in post production on one of our 5 videos, while also producing the the other 4. Our Access Miller (Transportation and Infrastructure) Action Group received $3,000 to produce this multi platform educational series on accessibility. We will release the videos and educational tools in August.
Access Miller Action Group and Barrier Free Beach 2020 went well. We trained by a representative from Great Lakes ADA Center and then conducted a neighborhood survey of our local hotspots to help them become more physically inclusive for all. 17 people attended this event. They completed the Marshall J. Gardner Center, Woodson Library, Miller Pizza Co., and got additional measurements for the lagoon. This was just the first of many surveys they will conduct for our community. We are hoping to make this a citywide initiative.
**Property Improvements Committee
PIC has gotten grant funding to do 11 decorative board ups across Miller.
On Sunday, May 15, 2016, they completed a decorative board up at the blighted Lake St. Beach Cafe.
The new coat of paint spruced up the place to help us get ready for our summer food truck park.
PIC is in the process of getting permission to board up Nobel School in September. The school board is very warm to the idea, they just have to go through the approval process. PIC is looking for a community partner to help install the upper level windows. They can cut and pain them, but need someone with a scaffold to help install them. Please email Jessie via firstname.lastname@example.org if you, or someone you know is interested.
Here is a sketch of what the finished Nobel board up would look like.
Introducing Gary's Miller Spotlight's newest community partner, The Charter School of the Dunes. One of our community's 29 goals is to reduce vacant properties by 20 percent by 2018. Additionally, part of our community vision is to have eye-pleasing entrances. Well, the Charter School of the Dunes is helping us with both these items.
They applied for and received an environmental grant to knock down the blighted gas station on US 20 and Old Hobart Road and to remove the gas tanks. This year they are keeping the space trimmed up and using it as an overflow parking lot while they run soil tests and plan how to best use the space. We look forward to future partnering opportunities with them.
**Safety and Code Enforcement
On May 7, 2016 Miller Spotlight volunteers did a second wave cleanup with our later risers.
The Community Clean Up encompassed Park Shore Commons on County Line Rd. and Lake Street from the Douglas Center to Lake Street Beach. We hosted a community meal afterwards and leftovers were donated to The Ark Women’s Shelter.
Safety and Code Enforcement has partnered with the MCC’s Shoreline Committee to help make our summer 2016 the best one yet! They will work hand in hand with the new beach manager once the new hire has been announced and confirmed.
They are helping keep our beaches clean, our boat launch dug out and our level of professionalism of park employees a priority.
Gary's Parks Department has started digging out the boat launch. Getting ready for Memorial Day Weekend. Yay summer is nigh! Come to our Saturday 5/28/16 Summer kickoff at Lake Street Beach in Gary's beautiful Miller community to see what all the buzz is about!
**Jobs and the Economy!
This action group has been working with local venders like Miller K to help give constructive feedback and promote local venders, as well as prepping to host two workshops.
One of Gary's Miller Spotlight's 29 community goals is to have a food truck (ideally a food truck park) from Saturdays-Mondays at Lake St Beach from 9am-7pm this summer.
Local burrito guru Mary Garcia has got all her permits set with the city and parks and she will be one of our go to food park folks for Lake Street Beach this summer. Congrats to the Garcia family for starting a local business!!! Please like the El Paso Del Norte page. https://m.facebook.com/tasteofelpasodelnorte/
If you or anyone you know is interested in having a cart/ truck in our Lake St. Food Park please email Jessie via email@example.com.
Upcoming Miller Spotlight Events
Park Shore Commons Bingo 3-5pm meet in the community room
860 N Wells St.
Gary, Indiana, 46403
Thursday, 5/26/16 2:30pm!
Our Jobs and Economy Action Group has partnered with Horizon Bank to give a financial literacy workshop for the students at Wirt-Emerson VPA. They will discuss budgeting, interest rates/ credit cards and the basics of student loans.
Saturday, 5/28 Starts at 11AM- Sunset
Lake St. Beach Food Park Kickoff Help support local venders and showcase Lake Street Beach. We will have a food truck and the boat launch will be dug out. We are trying to really promote activity at Lake St this summer.
Thursday, 6/16/16 2:30pm
Our Jobs and Economy Action Group has partnered with Horizon Bank to give a financial literacy workshop for the residents at Park Shore Commons. They will discuss budgeting, interest rates and credit cards.
(Our community builder being interviewed by two of our community partners The Boys & Girls Club and The Gary Digital Storytelling Project. We are teaming up with these organizations to help complete our oral history project.)
To date, we have 43 partners that have agreed to help our community implement our 29 goals. (Check out our full length plan here, or you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org directly if you'd like a copy of the PDF.)
We are happy to announce that the ADA-Indiana Steering Committee selected our Miller Spotlight: Access Miller Beach (Transportation and Infrastructure) Action Group's proposal, “Access for All,” as one of the 2016 Coros ADA Community Grants. “Access for All” is a multimedia outreach series that will be created for Gary’s Miller neighborhood to educate residents, businesses, municipalities and service providers on the importance of inclusion of persons with visible and non visible disabilities within the community. This multi-platformed project will make it a priority to address the following areas: civic, cultural and recreational, physical environment, and transportation. Production on this series began in March. We will release the first installation of the series in May. It is our goal that people citywide will use these free materials to make Gary, Indiana as inclusive a community as possible.
Additionally, our volunteers received the 2016 American Planning Award-IN Award for Excellence in Outreach. Our community builder, Jessie Renslow, accepted the award for us at the Spring Planning Conference at Ball State University. Congrats to all the volunteers that made our first year such a productive one!
2016 Miller K Market survey is starting to reap results. Our local grocery store, Miller K Market, is family owned. They have started incorporating the constructive feedback they received from us on upgrades they can pursue this year. Please check them out!
They fixed the Miller K sign on Rt 12!
Additionally, the Miller K Market has started carrying a wider array of produce and products, including organic.
Thanks to those who took our Miller K Market survey and the MCC for partnering on this effort with Gary's Miller Spotlight. Our Jobs and Economy Action Group took general data from emails received from people living in the area and constructed an online survey that 200+ members of the community took. An additional 50+ took the paper version of the survey. The data was compiled and given to our local grocer. Jobs and the Economy is one of the 7 themes being addressed in our 29 community goals.
Our Jobs and the Economy Action Group had a nice turn out at our first financial workshop for our community. It's never too early or late to learn how to budget. A financially literate community is an empowered one. Thanks for hosting Miller Beach Arts & Creative District. A shout out to Horizon Bank for co-hosting and partnering on this goal with us. We are planning 3 more workshops sponsored by Horizon this year. Look for more info coming soon.
Gary’s Miller Spotlight Safety and Code Enforcement Action Group has begun to facilitate general rapport programming at Park Shore Commons. Additionally, we have started implementing monthly community cleanups across this 242 unit apartment complex. We hope to replicate these initiatives at all our apartments (Lake Shore Dunes, Marquette, Ishiyama and Wood Lake Village), but are in the process of recruiting more volunteers and securing commitments for programming from the police. This programming is a great way to have fun, promote new leadership among our community and keep folks updated on our community goals as they progress. Hope to see you at Park Shore Commons in April! We will also host two major community-wide cleanups. One on County Line Rd and One on Lake St. on 5/7/16. (More info on these events listed below).
Gary's Miller Spotlight's Area Context Action Group is partnering with NPR's StoryCorps program to collect oral histories for the The Library of Congress. Our community was designated as one that serves a diverse population by StoryCorps. StoryCorps interviews celebrate the voices and milestones in communities and encourage meaningful interactions between our organizations and the people they serve.
A huge thank you goes out to our two local partners, Marquette Park UMC and Temple Israel. StoryCorps-Chicago sent one of their production teams to our neighborhood to kickoff this project. We were the first community in Indiana for them to come on site to! We did the first 12 interviews (24 people) on March 19th and 20th. We will showcase these interviews at a fun engagement event this summer. We are looking to host 4 large sessions of interviews in the fall and are seeking more community partners to help with the process. We would love to get at least 100 people interviewed.
What is StoryCorps?
StoryCorps Mission Statement:
“StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.
We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.”
The Miller Beach Arts & Creative District and Openhill have created a community portal and calendar with user generated content that will help promote our neighborhood, city and region as a whole. It's called Dragonfly NWI.
The inspiration for this portal and calendar came from a need seen within the community from these two entities. This was validated from our 2015 community survey, where it was stated as a desire by many folks interviewed. It was then incorporated into our community plan as one of our goals.
Thanks MBACD and Openhill for taking on this major need for our community. They partnered with Gary's Miller Spotlight Area Context Action Group to host a tech literacy course for our local businesses and oragnizations. Go to http://www.dragonflynwi.com to check out the portal and stay tuned for more info!
Local vender, Kidstuff Playsystems, has started building 11 ADA compatible bike racks that will be coming to Gary's Miller Community this May.
Gary's Miller Spotlight Access Miller Beach (aka Transportation and Infrastructure) Action Group has worked hard to obtain the funds for this project and identify the best spots for these racks. If you're interested in helping install them Kidstuff will host a workshop in early June. Stay tuned for more one-off volunteer opportunities!
CALL OUT TO ARTISTS AND VOLUNTEERS!!!
There were 5 categories:
1. pre k-3rd grade
2. 4-6th grade
3. 7-9th grade
4. 10-12th grade
We had many entries in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th categories. (Oddly none in the 3rd category.) So, the judges chose two from the 4th category instead. Announcing our winners:
2. 4-6th grade
4. 10-12th grade-Arthur Lemme
4. 10-12th grade- China Williams
5. Adult-Maryann Urbanczyk
Congrats! Our community builder will return the art work to all participants and handout the gift cards to the winners this week. Thanks for making this inaugural event a smash hit!
Is your website accessible? Could you be losing business and or members by accident? Come check out Gary's Miller Spotlight and Barrier Free Beach 2020's workshop this Thursday (4/14) from 1-4PM at the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District (540 S. Lake St. Gary, IN 46403). Janet Peters, Project Coordinator of Accessible Technology for the Great Lakes ADA Center will facilitate the workshop. Janet has worked to promote full and unrestricted participation in society for persons with disabilities through the promotion of technology that is accessible to all. Please pass along the word!
Members of our Environment and Ecotourism Action Group just wrote a NIPSCO environmental grant and an American Water grant with our community builder that would teach 15 local teens about the environment, complete 2 community clean ups, identify illegal dump sites, complete 2 service projects and install 10 signs. We will find out on 4/22/16 if we got any of these grants.
Is your website accessible? Could you be losing business and or members by accident? Come check out Gary's Miller Spotlight and Barrier Free Beach 2020's workshop this Thursday (4/14) from 1-4PM at the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District. Janet Peters, Project Coordinator of Accessible Technology for the Great Lakes ADA Center will facilitate the workshop. Janet has worked to promote full and unrestricted participation in society for persons with disabilities through the promotion of technology that is accessible to all.
Education/ Child and Youth Programming Action Group Meeting at 6pm at Marquette Park United Methodist Church.
Green Gary Day Bike Ride meet at the Douglas Center at 1pm
Park Shore Commons Bingo 3-5pm meet in the community room
860 N Wells St.
Gary, Indiana, 46403
Miller Spotlight Property Improvements Action Group Meeting 6 PM at Miller Pizza Co.
Saturday, 5/7/16 Community Cleanup
(Starts at 11am for County Line & Lake St. More info soon!)
Barrier Free Beach 2020 Training at Woodson Library and community assessment (We’re partnering with Great Lakes ADA.)
Saturday, 5/28 Starts at 11AM
Lake St. Beach Food Park Kickoff Help support local venders and showcase Lake Street Beach
Gary’s Miller Spotlight volunteers presented our community plan at Wirt-Emerson on Saturday 11/14/15. Check out our full length plan here, or you can also email email@example.com directly if you'd like a copy of the PDF. You don't have to live in Gary’s Miller Community you just have to care about our revitalization efforts to participate. We are a Legacy Foundation initiative.
Thanks to the 17 volunteers and 108 community members who came out to the Miller Spotlight Jamboree on October 23, 2015.
The community gave our Action Groups feedback on our SMAART Goals
We had a ton of fun, braved the wind and the rain, plus got useful feedback on our attainable goals.
Community snow globes and the bounce house were hotspots
Gary’s Miller Spotlight is a Legacy Foundation initiative modeled after collective impact projects that have worked well on the south side of Chicago and in Indianapolis. Miller and Northwest Hobart are the first two Lake County communities to pilot the Neighborhood Spotlight program, which is a new place-based initiative for reinvesting in Da Region.
Our Area Context Chairman discusses Goals with one of our community's fathers Ned Colson.
For the past nine months members of the volunteer run-Miller Spotlight project have gathered 4,013 comments about Gary’s very own Miller neighborhood from vested community members. These conversations have helped determine how we as a community plan to take action towards continuing to revitalize our neighborhood. By sourcing our information directly from the public we are hoping to identify which grants/ programs might best suit the needs of our community and all its residents. From our findings, seven themes emerged.
Volunteers logged the community feedback & got more interviews for our SWOT study
Seven action groups were formed to address these themes:
1.Environment and Ecotourism
2.Safety/ Code Enforcement
3.Education/ Youth Child Programming
4.Property and Blight
6.Jobs and the Economy
7.Transportation and Infrastructure
(Face painting and crafts added flare)
For the past two months, Miller Spotlight’s 76 action group volunteers have been constructing attainable goals for these seven themes.
(Kids and adults bonded while getting excited over the projects to come)
These goals will be crafted into our community plan. The notes received from the 108 participants at our Miller Spotlight Jamboree will be worked into our community plan, which will be presented at 2PM at Wirt-Emerson’s Auditorium and implemented in 2016.
(Thanks to Brown's Inflatables and Tia's Cake in a Cup for helping make the Jamboree awesome!!!)
The first of our 7 action groups to host an early action grant event is our Education/ Youth and Child Programming Action Group.
Come to the Miller Spotlight Harvest Festival
and enjoy a ton of free, family friendly activities and meet your local educators/ youth and child programming organizations.
See what our community has to offer your family! If you would like to help decide and act upon projects that can profoundly change your community’s future, please attend the Miller Spotlight Harvest Festival this Friday (10/30/15) from 4-7PM on Lake St. (Yes we will have a Thriller Flash Mob too!!!)
NEIGHBORHOOD SPOTLIGHT UPDATE
Congrats to Griffith and Gary’s Emerson community for being the 2016 awardees of the Neighborhood Spotlight Initiative.
Gary’s Miller community volunteers look forward to future collaborations with our fellow Neighborhood Spotlight cohorts.
If you would like more information about Miller Spotlight, or to schedule an interview with Gary-Miller’s community builder, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall has been an amazingly packed season so far. Our seven action groups and our steering committee approved our Community Vision in September. This vision was drafted in a workshop this summer. Please click here for more details on that event. The vision below has gone through several rounds of notes and we will continue to strive for it and tweak it accordingly as the community sees fit. This is an ideal we are hoping to attain by 2025.
Our Community Vision for the ideal Miller in 2025:
Miller is a beautiful, high density, universally designed neighborhood in Gary, Indiana, known as an active arts community and a destination for beach and waterfront recreation. Miller provides quality education and programs for its youth and a variety of activities for residents of all ages. Inviting gateways and transit options make Miller accessible to visitors from throughout the region, and Miller’s inclusive community design make it easy for residents and visitors alike to enjoy the area’s activities and natural environment. A vibrant downtown supports a strong business community and provides quality employment opportunities. Resident leadership and initiative create a thriving, safe, and inclusive neighborhood with government, philanthropic, and business support enriching those initiatives. The Miller neighborhood is a vibrant and functional community to live, work, and play in.
From our one-on-one community conversations where our volunteers gathered 4,013 comments, seven themes emerged. We then created seven action groups to address the needs of these themes. Each action group met 3-6+ times between the third week of August and first week of October. Our 76 volunteers meet for a total 56 times!!! They constructed attainable SMART goals to address their group’s theme and wrote early action grants to bring attention to their theme as well. For the past two months, Miller Spotlight’s 76 volunteers have been constructing attainable goals for these seven themes. These goals will be crafted into their community plan. The plan will be presented in early November 2015 and implemented in 2016.
If you would like to help decide and act upon projects that can profoundly change your community’s future, please attend the Miller Spotlight Jamboree. The community will have the opportunity to meet the action group volunteers and give notes on their drafted goals. This feedback will be reviewed before the community plan is finalized. So, come join in the fun, tell Miller Spotlight what your thoughts are, and mingle with your neighbors at the jamboree! They will present these goals at the Miller Spotlight Jamboree on Friday, October 23, 2015. You don’t have to be from Miller, or live there to join in the Neighborhood Spotlight process. You just need to care about the revitalization efforts occurring in this community to attend this fun, free family-friendly event on Friday, October 23, 2015 from 4-7:30PM in Marquette Park. Located at 1 North Grand Boulevard Gary, IN 46403, they will be at the picnic area next to the lagoon. Look for a bounce house, basketball hoops and a ton of festive folks.
Miller Spotlight Themes/ Action Groups:
- Transportation and Infrastructure
- Property & Blight
- Area Context (Engagement and Communication)
- Environment and Ecotourism
- Education/ Youth and Child Programming
- Safety and Code Enforcement
- Education and Youth Programming
- Economy and Jobs
Meet the fabulous folks chairing our 7 action groups!
Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman
My name is Ken Parr (Kenneth A. Parr). I am chairing the Transportation and Infrastructure action group. I heard about Miller Spotlight on Facebook. God brought me to the Miller Beach community in 2012. I was searching for a home in Gary in general, but the home I reside in now became available at exactly the right time and at exactly the right price. I am passionate about the Transportation and Infrastructure Action Group because I prefer to walk or bicycle to my destinations. I understand that American urban centers are getting away from an automobile culture, so I want to help my community prepare for a more walkable environment.
Property & Blight Co-Chair
My name is Jennifer White. I am the co-chair for Property and Blight. I heard about this project from the Miller Arts District website/ facebook. I love the beach, but was looking for an affordable place to own a home and still have access to Chicago. I also wanted to start a non-profit to help struggling communities. Gary was the perfect place, with a wealth of salvageable materials, but a unique community. I started a non-profit to salvage building materials, after seeing so much waste during construction projects as an Architect. I also have a passion for rehab and being part of community revitalization. Miller is a wonderful community with many passionate and diverse residents, with a lot of creative energy behind it.
Property & Blight Co-Chair
Eric Dean Spruth Ma, AKA Vontiki
My name is Eric Dean Spruth Ma, AKA Vontiki. I’m co-chairing Property and Blight: the ultimate transformations program. I heard about Miller Spotlight from a most amazing women named Jessie. The beach, the people the opportunity to be a part of the Renaissance of Gary, In brought me here. I see myself as an escape artist of sorts. I am avid fan and performer of magic, and considers Sacred Transformations his ultimate trick. “For a lot of people, this is about being released and set free,” he says. “Let’s get you out of this. The biggest escape is escaping the minds we’re stuck in mentally and spiritually. Be yourself, be proud.” its not about escaping Gary, In. its about staying and continuing to be a small part of the amazing and undeniable transformations and rebirth all the time respecting what was hear and those who never left and have maintained so very much.
Area Context (Engagement and Communication) Chairman
My name is Simeon Burks! I'm currently co-chairing the Area Context Action Committee. A friend of mine from Church told me about it, and I've always been interested in Gary's community development. I was born here! I really like the weather (I know) and I love the sense of neighborhood that's lacking in a lot of other places. Just a bunch of friendly people. I believe image is very important for any neighborhood- and as an art major, I feel that I could be of use in designing ways to market Miller.
Environment and Ecotourism Chairwoman
My name is Natalie Johnson and I’m chairing the Environment & Ecotourism Action Group. I heard about this project through the Nextdoor Neighbor App & Legacy Foundation.I moved to Northwest Indiana in 2012 from the St. Louis metropolitan area after landing a job in the region. I knew nothing of Northwest Indiana, nor had I ever heard of Miller. Over the last few years, I experienced a lack of community where I was living in LaPorte County. I was miserable. I didn’t think there would ever be a place that I felt would be “home” in this area. I eventually found my way over to Miller in 2014 because I wanted to live a block from the beach. It was the only place that was affordable and, after comparing it with the other beach communities, it seemed to have this warm, welcoming feeling that I had been trying so hard to find. After renting for a year and falling completely in love with the community, I bought my very first home right here. Miller welcomes its newcomers with open arms. It is the place where I have felt the strongest sense of community in the region, and now it’s the place where I call home.I have worked in the environmental field for the last ten years, embracing the field as more than just a job, but a part of who I am. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than working with others on environmental themes, sharing this passion with others, and feeding off of each other’s enthusiasm. In Miller, we are so fortunate to have such wondrous environmental assets and a community ready to protect and promote their use. It’s exciting to come together and talk about such a huge defining piece of the Miller community.
Education/ Youth and Child Programming Chairwoman
Erica Justine Sipp
My name is Erica Justine Sipp and I’m chairing Education/ Youth and Child Programming Miller Spotlight was introduced to me via my sister. We were running errands for her event planning business and found out about the meetings via the local art gallery located on Lake Street. As far as my connection with the community is concerned, I have been in Northwest Indiana for all of my life. I was born in Munster, Indiana, but lived in the Miller community for all of my life. My parents started off in one of the slab homes that used to be on County Line Road. Shortly after I was born, my parents moved into a home that they built for us as a family. I attended elementary school at Fairhaven Baptist Academy located in Chesterton, Indiana, high school at Andrean High School located in Merrillville, Indiana, and completed my undergraduate at Indiana University Northwest. During my undergrad years I lived in Merrillville for a little while but moved back home so that I could attend graduate school. I have been here ever since. I guess what really made me stay after high school may have had something to do with not really being able to afford going to the college of my choice and me not really having a plan for college. At that time, I felt that the experience that I had was somewhat constricted and thought that I really would not be able to explore more and gain exposure until I went away to college. Even with these ideals, I did not have any personal career goals. My parents and I decided that it would be best for me to stay local until I knew as college was and still is a huge investment. Having some type of direction can help with things. I would not say that this was a negative thing as being here has allowed me to witness the ups and down that Miller has had as well as Gary overall. Being aware of what the community used to be and seeing the transition that has happened, both ups and downs, has given me an “homegrown” or authentic experience of what Miller really is and how surrounding populations feel about Miller. The theme of education is something that has been very present in the circles that I participated in. I could not even get away from educational obligations with the jobs that I had growing up. My mother, uncle, and aunt were educators and even though our family members had different occupations, they all were educators themselves. We were always taught that it is important to get an education so that we could better ourselves, have a career, and help to build a life for our families when we start one of our own. Education had a presence in our home and if we were not focused, my parents utilized tools that helped us get back on track. I believe that if we as individuals can provide a system of things similar or better than the educational tools that we were presented with as children, it could be able help to transform what we have now for education into something better. It could possibly lead to children looking at education as a positive thing rather something done out of obligation. I am hoping that this position allows me to bring awareness to all of the different things that the community has to offer for building and developing its youth regarding education and other character building skills.
Safety and Code Enforcement Chairwoman
My name is Carolinda Camisa and I’m chairing Safety and Code Enforcement. I heard about this project from Nextdoor. I grew up in Gary and have always loved the Miller area for the lake and the natural beauty. I've met many wonderful people and reconnected with old friends since moving here. I like the spirit of the community. Local organizations and volunteers have done some great work to improve the area. I chose Safety and Code Enforcement because people need to live in a safe and well-maintained area. Miller and the rest of Gary have so much potential. I want to contribute to reaching that potential.
Economy and Jobs Chairwoman
My name is Derreka Rollins and I’m chairing the Economy and Jobs Action Group.
I met Jessie Renslow at Gary Middle College while she was presenting a project and I was interested to learn more. I am a Gary native. Though I resided in Houston, Texas for two years, my desire was to come back to my home town to take part in redevelopment. I believe economy plays a huge part in the social climate of the city of Gary so by taking an initiative to improve this aspect of the city, the social climate has an opportunity to change, families will be able to thrive and survive.
These awesome folks have been leading our 76 volunteers through the decision stage of Miller Spotlight. Come to the Jamboree on 10/23/15 to see what the goals are so far!