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John Carroll University's Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship receives Verizon grant to enrich Cleveland's Buckeye-Larchmere neighborhood

The Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship at John Carroll University has received a $50,000 grant from Verizon to support new programs and projects that empower middle school children and local residents to build a stronger, more connected community in Cleveland’s Buckeye-Larchmere neighborhood.

Recess, a Cleveland-based nonprofit program with a mission to “stimulate emotional growth, promote physical activity and increase community participation by throwing pop-up events in areas lacking safe places to play,” will provide activity buckets to local families with materials for outdoor games, sports, and art projects. Another partner, Akron-based Art x Love, will engage kids through digital activity books that promote community discovery and creative expression. Digital submissions from young residents may inspire future art installations in neighborhood parks and public spaces. 

“The main goal is to enrich the experience of residents and business owners in the neighborhood by strengthening the social infrastructure,” says Doan Winkel, the director of the Muldoon Center leading the grant project. 

“It’s also a tangible opportunity for our students at John Carroll to apply the skills they are learning in the classroom in a meaningful way that will create lasting change in our community,” Winkel added.

Art x Love also will work with John Carroll’s Social Entrepreneurship students to conduct a walkability assessment of the neighborhood. The study will document safety and accessibility concerns for residents using Geographic Information System software. Art x Love, John Carroll students, and residents will map out the neighborhood, identifying the quality of sidewalks, roadways, greenery, structures, and lighting so that the information can be shared with city and county leadership for infrastructure improvements. 

“Our street-level approach, in collaboration with John Carroll students and Buckeye-Larchmere residents, will improve learning about the neighborhood, encourage appreciation of the environment, and provide critical data to inform and guide neighborhood services and future investment,” says Mac Love, co-founder of Art x Love.

Following the audit, a portion of the grant will support a teen-run investment fund that teaches young residents to evaluate proposals from their peers on how to address the issues identified during the walkability assessment, and other potential community improvements. John Carroll students from the Social Entrepreneurship class will mentor the kids through the process, which includes a video submission outlining the idea, budget, projected impact, and action plan. 

“When trying to produce a positive, long-term, and self-sustaining impact on a traditionally underserved community with various socioeconomical stressors, it truly does take a village,” says Josh McHamm, a longtime resident, business owner and activist who is helping the university build relationships in the Buckeye-Larchmereneighborhood. “The John Carroll-Verizon strategic partnership has adopted this old adage and has worked to bring the private and public sectors together to help give residents of the Greater Buckeye area more equity and access to the tools needed to build strong, healthy, beautiful neighborhoods.”

The projects will be a collaboration between John Carroll stakeholders, including the Muldoon Center, the Donnelly School for Leadership and Social Innovation, and the Boler College of Business, as well as Cleveland community leaders and neighborhood champions. The Muldoon Center’s mission to give students the tools and resources to explore their own possibilities aligns with Verizon’s mission to improve confidence in students from under-resourced communities, making it a natural partnership.

“With the youth, it’s really all about confidence,” Winkel says. “In any neighborhood, kids have dreams. When poverty limits their activities and potential, they are less likely to see their dreams as being achievable. By giving the residents ownership in this process, these projects build the confidence that they can create positive change in their neighborhood together.”

The Muldoon Center is planning to use a second, $120,000 grant from Verizon to host the Verizon Innovative Learning summer camp for 50 girls and 50 boys next summer. For more information on the Muldoon and Buckeye-Larchmere partnership, contact Doan Winkel at dwinkel@jcu.edu.