On June 7, 2018, a fire caused by an electrical problem in Pleasant Ridge, Ohio destroyed Molly Malone’s Restaurant and Irish Pub, The Coffee Exchange, and five second-floor apartments located above the businesses. As strong community partners, Molly Malone’s and The Coffee Exchange’s circumstances launched a clamor of comments on a local Facebook page by neighborhood residents regarding what could be done to help those affected by the devastation. Mary Ray, the Vice Board President of Planning for the Kennedy Heights Community Council, stumbled across the pleads from locals. “Everyone in the neighborhood wanted to do something,” noticed Mary. The center, she thought, was the perfect place to hold a benefit to raise money for restoring the establishments.
On July 1, less than a month after the despairing community setback, Mary, with the help of the Pleasant Ridge Community Council (PRCC) and the Pleasant Ridge Business Association (PRBA), facilitated a benefit cleverly dubbed “Rebuild the Ridge”. The fundraiser was held at the Kennedy Heights Art Center. In attendance were local art vendors, musicians, and chefs who were willing to share their talents with the community to help raise money for redevelopment funding. Emily Frank, a Pleasant Ridge resident and local business owner of Share: Cheesebar, volunteered to help facilitate the benefit.
“The event made the community as whole feel closer,” said Emily. “It was overwhelming to see the outpour of support that came in for the community and the businesses.”
Vital to the event’s success was the Cincinnati Community ToolBank, which provided 100 chairs and 20 tables to create a welcoming and comfortable space for the attendees. To borrow this equipment from the ToolBank costed the Kennedy Heights Art Center just over $100. Had the center bought these furnishing at a retail price, however, the total value would have amounted to $3,655. Given that the arts center is a nonprofit organization, it would have been logistically more difficult to host a successful function without the ToolBank’s services. Mallory Feltz, Director of Exhibitions and Public Art at the center, stated, “The ToolBank took care of all of our table and chair event needs, and they did so with very little stress.” She added that thanks to the ToolBank, those in attendance were able to sit and enjoy the event, allowing the benefit to raise $22,630 for their beloved community partners.
Molly Malone’s and The Coffee Exchange have each been given half of the event’s earnings. Since receiving the community’s funds, The Coffee Exchange started designing blueprints for their new location. It has not been confirmed that Molly Malone’s will rebuild. If they decide against it, the money raised at the event will be managed by the Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation (PRDC) to assist with the economic redevelopment of Pleasant Ridge’s business district.
Through its collaborative efforts, the Kennedy Heights Arts Center and the Cincinnati Community ToolBank have proven that community is not defined by a locality; instead, community is a social and cultural network composed of individuals who use their skills and talents to bind relationships and fulfill needs.