This story is part of our THRIVING for 10 Years series celebrating WeTHRIVE!’s 10th anniversary. This week, we catch up with Amberley Village, a WeTHRIVE! community since 2011.
We recently sat down with Mayor Tom Muething and Merrie Stillpass, former mayor, to talk about what WeTHRIVE! has meant to Amberley Village over the past eight years. They reflected on the Village’s successful projects, which are even more impressive because they’ve been sustainable. And they also emphasized the value of the WeTHRIVE! process and how much they appreciate the technical assistance the initiative provides.
Mini-grant funds early projects
As one of the 12 communities that joined WeTHRIVE! under the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant, Amberley Village received a mini-grant in 2012 to implement projects related to healthy eating and physical activity.
Part of the mini-grant funds were used to build a community garden at Amberley Green, a former country club the Village had purchased. The Amberley Green Community Garden is still going strong today. All 36 plots are tended, about half by Amberley residents and half by residents of other communities.
This year, Amberley became one of three new hub garden program sites for the Civic Garden Center. Through this program, free classes on gardening, nutrition, and cooking are offered at Amberley Green twice a month from April through September.
Mini-grant funding also connected two of Amberley’s assets—the Village Hall paved walking path and French Park, a Cincinnati Park located just across the street. “We had this great park with lots of trails, but you couldn’t get to it unless you walked on a dangerous shoulder on Section Road or drove there,” Merrie said. The Village collaborated with Cincinnati Parks to build a new trailhead that made it it easier and safer for people to extend their walk from the Village Hall path into French Park’s trails.
“We were very fortunate to have been able to get the mini-grant, because we might not have those projects today if we did not have that funding,” Merrie said.
WeTHRIVE! process provides structure and focus
Looking back, Tom says the assessment process required by the WeTHRIVE! mini-grant was very important for Amberley. “Everybody had some ideas about what we should spend the mini-grant money on,” he said. “But WeTHRIVE! provided a process for us to really understand what assets the village had and then to say, ‘what can we do enhance these assets?’”
Amberley has repeated the assessment and action planning process several times over the past eight years, and Merrie and Tom continue to see the value in this. “I think as we’ve been involved in the program, it’s evolved,” Merrie said. “It’s provided a lot of resources to our group, but also a lot of structure to what we do.”
Amberley’s focus changes
Amberley’s initial WeTHRIVE! focus was on the chronic disease pathway. After a couple of years, Tom says the energy around that faded, but that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. “When chronic disease went into a hiatus, it was natural, it was kind of healthy,” he said. “I think Hamilton County Public Health helped us recognize that it’s better not to force something.”
The Village switched gears to focus on WeTHRIVE!’s environmental health pathway, which involves the village’s Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC). “The committee was already very active, but WeTHRIVE! has helped us focus and come up with a true plan for what we want to accomplish,” Tom said. ESC sponsors Earth Day and Arbor Day programs, cleanup days, environmental education, and more. But its most popular program is probably the annual One Stop Drop recycling event, which netted 22 tons of paper, electronics, clothing and small household items this year.
Looking to the future
While the ESC is going strong in Amberley, there is now renewed interest in the chronic disease pathway. Merrie says this is one of the benefits of WeTHRIVE!’s flexibility and multiple pathways. “People come in with different interests and we’ve been able to channel them into specific meaningful activities,” she said.
Amberley has demonstrated that the WeTHRIVE! process works. “We have successful projects we can point to,” Merrie said. “And now we’re looking more to relationships with other organizations in the community and having those people at the table. That only happens because we have gone through the process and ended up with a plan that we can take to these organizations. WeTHRIVE! has really provided that for us.”
See all of our stories about WeTHRIVE! in Amberley Village: