The Sanctuary, a social enterprise event space operated by nonprofit organization Community Matters, makes the power of placemaking evident. Birthday parties, weddings, and special events are all reasons people come together, and The Sanctuary’s accommodations allow such events to come to life. What was originally St. Michael’s Church in 1847, The Sanctuary was a gift from the Archdiocese to Community Matters after the church’s closure in the 1990s. Following a series of renovations that began in 2014, The Sanctuary is now a picturesque space available for low-cost to community members who use it for celebratory purposes. Additionally, the proceeds earned from outside event rentals allow The Sanctuary to support the organization’s community-based programs, which aim to create a thriving Lower Price Hill neighborhood.
To operate as a social enterprise event space, however, the Sanctuary requires special-events equipment. Since the Cincinnati Community ToolBank opened its doors in 2012, Community Matters has recognized the importance of a partnership with their fellow nonprofit organization. “At The Sanctuary, we believe that your event matters. The ToolBank helps promote this tagline by providing necessary materials that allow us to host events at The Sanctuary,” said Patty Lee, Community Matter’s Director of Development and Communication.
In the seven years that The Sanctuary has worked with ToolBank, the organization has borrowed a variety of tools and materials for special events and beyond. From wheelbarrows and shovels to tables and chairs, all equipment borrowed has assisted Community Matters’ innumerable tasks. Patty joked, “I don’t think there’s a tool we haven’t checked out from ToolBank. If there is, we should borrow it just for fun!”. Patty affirmed that Community Matters will continue using the ToolBank’s services for their project and event needs, particularly with their upcoming affordable housing projects. These projects will break ground in Spring 2019 in the Lower Price Hill neighborhood where Community Matters resides.
“Managed by Allied Construction Industries, The Greater Cincinnati Construction Foundation (GCCF) works with Cincinnati community partners to provide educational programs that promote the construction industry and teach math and science through hands-on tool interaction. Since the foundation started ten years ago, a great deal of evolving has progressed GCCF’s initiatives. Lydia Burns, lead outreach and education advocate for GCCF, has expanded the organization’s initial programs, which now function as a workforce-development model for multiple school districts.
Lydia leads construction-based education programs at eight schools. For one individual, however, her role occupies a great capacity. This is where Cincinnati Community ToolBank steps in to assist Lydia with her program administration. Lydia’s engagement with the ToolBank braces her work at Roll Hill School, whose resource coordinator aspired to build a community garden. When he spoke with Lydia about his concerns regarding resource accessibility, she suggested borrowing tools from the ToolBank to help make the project manageable and affordable.
“The ToolBank removes a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to performing workforce development,” says Lydia. She explained how contractors often desire to leverage the construction industry by educating children about job opportunities. Unfortunately, schools generally lack the quantity of tools necessary to make such instruction possible. By having access to the ToolBank, Lydia can equip her students with the proper tools for lessons that she teaches at an extremely affordable rate. Thus, the ToolBank’s services simultaneously support the development of future construction leaders, as well as allow the program to expand to more schools.
In addition to borrowing tools for their community garden, Roll Hill has also utilized the ToolBank’s equipment for special events such as honor-roll functions and parent-teacher conferences. Through her programs’ partnerships with the ToolBank, Lydia hopes that she can help eliminate stereotypes about the construction industry, as well as assist children with finding employment in the field. “ToolBank is the partner you need for peace-of-mind,” affirmed Lydia. “My relationship with ToolBank allows me to do my work better than anyone else.”
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.