Eastside Residential Neighborhood Group honored for constructive activism

A local neighborhood improvement group was honored with a community award Monday night at a Bowling Green City Council meeting.

Eastside Residential Neighborhood Group received the Honor Roll award from the town’s Human Relations Commission for its various citizen-focused projects.

In the summer of 2007, a group of eight neighbors gathered to discuss issues involving rental properties and owner-occupied housing on the east side of Bowling Green, leading to the formation of the Eastside Residential Neighborhood Group. Now, the group’s involvement has grown exponentially, with 300 members, including Council member John Zanfardino, listed, and with 1,300 additional supporters numbered.

Their mission statement: “We are citizens committed to enhancing residential neighborhoods, encouraging property maintenance in pursuit of safe housing for all and promoting beautification of properties in a strong and diverse community.”

Commission chair Mary Jane Sanders views their activism to be necessary because market forces are not always favorable or helpful for University students.

A number of times annually, the commission recognizes Bowing Green businesses and groups for positive displays of diversity, reflecting the commission’s core values. By rewarding the group on their efforts, Sanders hopes to set a precedent of continued positive advocacy in the community.

“The Human Relations Commission is committed to promoting respect for diversity and encouraging positive interactions between the diverse citizens of our city,” Sanders said.

The goals of the group are to foster good relationships between residents and non-permanent residents, encourage property maintenance by all home owners, push for closer supervision by landlords of their property, work closely with the city over occupancy and nuisance issues and continue the strong liaison with the Office of the Dean of Students at BGSU.

Their 2017 involvement included providing information on civil rights and responsibilities, participating in the Court Street Connects festival, delivering presentations to community groups, disseminating flyers and aiding the development of the Community Action Plan.

By monitoring exterior properties for compliance with the city code, the group has also been able to successfully make procedural changes, get repairs done and encourage cooperative behavior between residents.

Group member Rose Hess spoke on behalf of the council’s acceptance of the award.

“When we first started out, we never intended to be a neighborhood organization per se,” Hess said. “We deliver fruit baskets to new homeowners, visited over 500 houses in August, delivered 1,500 flyers and we do Christmas dinners for the needy. But we’re primarily an activist group, and we get into the faces of people.”

Mayor Dick Edwards delivered his own personal remarks in gratitude of the group’s accomplishments.

“I want to commend, congratulate and applaud your leadership, especially you Rose,” Edwards said. “You are not afraid to do some of the heavy lifting and put into action your words. And you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, nor are you afraid to get into the faces of some people like myself.”