Herb Virgo makes it a point to regularly say 'community ownership'. It's a small but important addition to his conversations with residents, organizations and politicians living in or working for the high-poverty community of his native North Hartford, Connecticut. It also serves as an example of his dedication to strengthening ties in an area that is in urgent need of turnaround in physical infrastructure, employment, and health outcomes.
Dwight Teal is a warm-hearted bike mechanic from the North End of Hartford. During the summer, he dedicated his Tuesday afternoons to fixing bikes at free repair sessions organized by Community Solutions.
In Brownsville, Brooklyn and Northeast Hartford, Connecticut, healthy food options are difficult to come by. Fast food businesses and bodegas with low or no quality produce characterize the landscape. All the while, full service supermarkets are outside of realistic walking or driving distance, making procuring healthy ingredients and preparing wholesome meals a geographic, logistical, and monetary conundrum.
This week Capital Workforce Partners Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program participants and a team of 60 Aetna volunteers working with Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity joined Community Solutions in the physical reactivation and beautification of three vacant lots in Northeast Hartford. The groups helped clean up and sow wildflower seeds across sites located along Main Street, Garden Street, and Barbour Street.
While Hartford, CT is known for its economic wealth and rich history, it’s also plagued by stark socio-economic divisions that play out across the city’s 16 neighborhoods. With the most diminished life expectancy in the state of Connecticut, Hartford’s northeast neighborhood stands as an important example of what can be lost when a community lacks clear lines of access to things such as quality healthcare, transportation, fresh foods, and safe, quality communal spaces - resources that neighborhoods just a few miles away readily enjoy.
When you first meet 17-year-old J'Medrie, she may seem a little shy. But sit with this Northeast Hartford native for a moment and words like “clever” and “ambitious” will come to mind. These traits have made her an asset to the Youth Leadership Corps, part of Community Solutions' strategy to improve health, safety and economic prosperity in the low-income neighborhood of Northeast Hartford, CT.
Today, at the site of the former M. Swift & Sons gold leaf factory, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Deputy Secretary Nani A. Coloretti of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the designation of the North Hartford area as a federal Promise Zone.
Johnny Johnson and Anthony Taylor are a made-in-Hartford tag team. Upon first meeting, it can take a moment to tell these two men apart. Both are 52 years old and sport short, salt and pepper hair. Both share the same shorter stature and wear bright, welcoming faces. Today this likely pair is going door to door to get their neighbors to complete a short health survey for Community Solutions.
By Rosanne Haggerty and David Figliuzzi
Located in the heart of Northeast Hartford, the 65,000 square-foot former Swift gold leafing factory is not what it used to be. While the building remains visually striking, it has long since been the prominent Hartford employer it once was. After finally closing its doors in 2004, the factory now functions primarily as a reminder of the city’s past industrial glory. But soon, that glory will be both restored and reimagined as Community Solutions embarks on a project to transform the former gold-leafing factory into a community Hub.