Community Visioning Appeal

“We know that people feel different looking at an intentionally manicured lot and a vacant lot – one inspires, the other doesn’t produce joy.”- Jourdan

The spirit of Hazelwood can be found in its community of multi-generational residents, many of whom put down roots during the bustling era of the steel industry. Although the steel mills have closed and families have migrated due to economic collapse, Jourdan Hicks (she/her/they), a life-long resident of Hazelwood, foresees the community is “on the precipice of a new day.” The uninhabited lots left behind, legacies of a changing economy, represent plots of untapped potential. In partnership with Grounded, Jourdan and Morningstar Baptist Church reclaimed and activated the land beneath their feet, and thereby reignited the spirit of Hazelwood.

From its inception, The Morningstar Green Playce project was meant to serve as a reflective, meditative space. The site boasts an intentional walkway to invite folk in, benches to provide rest while waiting for transit, sensory stimulants for communal play, a garden, and perhaps the most monumental feature, a memorial to Minister Renee Fuller and Veteran George Thomas. Like Jourdan, Minister Fuller and Mr.Thomas both served on the board of the Hazelwood Initiative and were engaged members of their church community. Part of the community’s vision for the site was for the space to inspire rest, peace, and safety, and for the community to know it was “curated with them in mind from a Black spiritual perspective.”

How often when it comes to memorial spaces . . . are they in our neighborhoods? Now we can come to a place in our community, and in our way to connect with our loved ones… seeing their names etched into the space.

Through the memorial, Morningstar congregants are now able to etch into physical history those dear loved ones whose labor and love for Hazelwood may otherwise go unrecorded.

Jourdan’s hope for the future of Hazelwood is for incoming generations to know that they have an inheritance–that their community is a community “because people cared, and they are the heirs of the hard work people engaged in. . . and it is [their] responsibility to take care of it for the next generation.” The work that she mentions depends on strong community investment and participation, which the Morningstar project brought to bear: veterans, Hazelwood residents, families with close ties to the neighborhood all came out to support. What was once the site of a demolished home moonlighting as a makeshift parking lot became a source of inspiration, joy, and connectedness.

On their partnership with Grounded, Jourdan says “any great partner brings knowledge, resources, and skills that you don’t have to the table, and is also considerate, malleable, and Grounded was that. Grounded was a great partner for Morning Star. They brought knowledge, resources, and skills that helped us execute our vision. Working with Grounded gave us the opportunity to do things that were ecologically sound from the very beginning. I hope that Grounded will continue to be a partner. ”

Grounded works daily to create lots that produce joy all across Allegheny County, for all kinds of people. To continue partnering with communities like Jourdan’s, we need you…

The average Grounded vacant lot project can cost between $10,000 to $20,000 from start to finish. Through your support, we can continue to equip Allegheny County residents to transform neglected spaces into livable residences. If you’d like to invest in the health of underserved communities and neighborhoods of our region, please donate today.

the Grounded Family

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