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IOBY crowdfunding site helps fund local improvement projects in Cleveland neighborhoods

Posted: 8:10 AM, Sep 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-03 18:25:19-04
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CLEVELAND — The Cleveland branch of fundraising site IOBY helps people set up their own kickstarter-like fundraisers to fund community improvement projects.

Some of the only differences between the Forest Hill of today and when it was first built up near John D. Rockefeller’s summer home are the trees, which are now much taller, the cars, which are now much more modern, and the street signs.

“The street signs and also the street lights were sort of like the jewelry,” said East Cleveland Forest Hill Neighborhood Association member Trina Prufer.

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A shot of the Forest Hill neighborhood shows a stretch of houses similar to the ones that stand today, seemingly untouched.

But over time, the jewelry disappeared and what were once very ornate street signs were gradually replaced with very ordinary ones.

“We were interested in bringing back some of our history and some of our personality of the original development,” said Prufer.

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The original street signs as they stood when the Forest Hill neighborhood was first created.

The problem the neighborhood association ran into is that East Cleveland is struggling. There are a lot of demands on the city’s resources, but not many resources in the first place.

That’s where the crowdfunding site, IOBY , standing for “In Our BackYards,” comes in.

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The first street signs to be installed as part of the neighborhood association's project.

“This is a platform where they can say, ‘No. I want to do this thing,” said IOBY Cleveland strategist Dawn Arrington.

IOBY focuses on grassroots projects, brought forward by residents who might not be able to get funding anywhere else. Unlike other crowdfunding sites, IOBY has strategists like Dawn in Cleveland , Detroit, Memphis, and Pittsburgh guiding fundraisers through their campaigns.

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Some of the big differences after nearly 100 years are the much more mature trees and the neighborhood's increased diversity. Both are a source of pride.

With help from IOBY, the East Cleveland Forest Hill Neighborhood Association is looking to raise $20,000 in four $5,000 phases. That will allow them to install roughly 30 historic-looking street signs that they say meet ODOT standards for modern street signs.

“To me, it’s like we’re making progress,” said Association Treasurer Dyeatra Williams.

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The neighborhood association is even recreating the doves that sat on top of the original street signs with 3-D printing.

She says the city and the neighborhood association can’t fix every problem but they’ve been successful already with smaller, more-attainable projects. They found a way to get consistent leaf removal in the fall and were part of a project to get the community’s nearly century-old trees trimmed for the first time in years.

“Let’s stop complaining,” said Williams. “Let’s come together on a consistent basis and let’s take some small steps and let’s do some action.”

If you'd like to get involved with the campaign, click here .

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.