The Avondale Partnership: Helping Our Neighbors, Living Our Values

As a top pediatric hospital, Cincinnati Children’s is well regarded for quality care, remarkable research and compassion for patients from all over the world. We extend similar compassion and care to our neighbors in Avondale. In the past five years, Cincinnati Children’s has invested $11.5 million dollars in community projects and initiatives that help ensure healthy outcomes for children and families. “We take great pride in making an investment in Avondale and also in how we did it—with our partners at the table, working together to make a positive difference in the community,” says Monica Mitchell, PhD, senior director of Community Relations. The impact on children in Avondale over the last five years is notable. Mitchell says, “We worked with many partners to increase the quality of childcare in the community, and we expanded technology and resources in these centers. The positive impact will be felt for years to come. It’s foundational and goes to the heart of our mission of improving child health. Through capacity-building and community development programs, we’ve reached more than half of the children in Avondale every year.” Another initiative Mitchell is particularly proud of focuses on health and wellness for Avondale families. “Through a partnership with the City of Cincinnati and Artworks, families can now enjoy an outdoor lighted walking track at the Hirsch Recreation Center that is centrally located and safe.” Mitchell adds “Cincinnati Children’s is proud of strong community partnerships, including those that provide training and employment opportunities. Partnerships include collaborations with the Urban League, Easter Seals, WEB Ventures, The Community Builders (TCB), MORTAR, and Artworks to hire people from Avondale and Uptown.”

Avondale Grocery Store

It’s been 13 years since residents could pick up fresh produce and meat in their neighborhood. But that ends this fall with the opening of a full-service grocery store in Avondale. The new store, slated to open in September, will offer indoor dining, a butcher and deli stand, as well as a bakery, dairy and dry goods. It will occupy 7,000 square feet at the corner of Forest Avenue and Reading Road at the Avondale Town Center.

For years, Avondale has been a food desert, with little or no access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Backers of the project, including Cincinnati Children’s, The Community Builders, the City of Cincinnati and others, see the grocery store as helping to solve a health issue.  

“The grocery store will be located in the heart of Avondale where residents can easily walk to purchase fresh, healthy foods, a cup of coffee or something from the bakery,” says Mitchell. “The store will benefit thousands of residents each year, including many young children and families.” “The impact will be transformational and sustained,” says Jeff Beam of The Community Builders, a neighborhood redevelopment group. “It’s the kind of thing that can solve a public health crisis of food access and at the same time sets a new bar for community expectations. What kind of community is Avondale? It’s the kind of community that deserves a first-rate grocery store.” Mitchell and Beam agree the grocery story could not have happened without a real coming together. “We all upped our game to start to think about things more holistically and ambitiously. We could not have done this without partnerships—different kinds of partnerships with large institutions, faith-based, neighborhood and grass-roots community partners. What we learned is that it took all of us to accomplish this,” says Beam. “The grocery store is ambitious enough and challenging enough that it could not have happened but for the grant funding and institutional support from Cincinnati Children’s because it’s so hard and required patience and perseverance to get it right. I’m confident we’ve gotten it right.” He adds, “The journey was difficult at times. We worked hard to build community trust and create shared ambition for what the neighborhood could achieve. We focused so heavily onindependent business, black-owned business, which came from steadfast insistence of the community. Delivering on that part of it is the biggest success.” The grocery store will be operated by Tennel and Chanel Bryant. The couple are long-time owners of the Country Meat Company at Findlay Market, as well as the catering company, Aunty’s Homemade Food. Beam adds, “Avondale is poised to have a successful and self-determined future. The grocery store will need the full support of the community to realize its full potential. I’m counting on Avondale and the community to come through.”

Avondale Partnership & Investment: FIVE-YEAR COMMUNITY IMPACT (FY17-FY21)

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Community Benefit and Impact:

  • Eliminated Avondale’s status as a food desert with the Avondale grocery store opening in 2021 – 8,000 residents impacted/year
  • Increased affordable and mixed-income housing and removed blight from the community – 120+ housing units/serving 400 residents
  • Developed Hirsch Walking Trail, featuring art installation lighting for safe walking – 3,000 residents benefitting/year
  • Expanded child care centers and play spaces for children to support safety and learning – 300+ children impacted/year
  • Initiated largest Reds Community Makeover in program history, featuring renovations to six Avondale locations – 2,000 children impacted
  • Provided computers and wi-fi to children in Avondale and other CPS schools – 10,000 students during COVID
  • Provided career training and opportunities for Avondale and Uptown residents through Career Insights, UWDI, RWB Programs – 100+ Hires

(Pictured) The Avondale Town Center and site of the new grocery store.

Center for Social Justice

Set to open next to the grocery store in Avondale in the fall of 2022 is the Center for Social Justice, a one-of-its-kind in the region. Operated by the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, the center will give space and place to address racism as a public health crisis. Eddie Koen, president and CEO of the Urban League, says “This is a dream come true for us. The timing presented a great opportunity.” Koen adds, “The Center for Social Justice was established in response to the social unrest experienced in the summer of 2020. Currently, the center is housed in the offices of the Urban League in Avondale. The grant from Cincinnati Children’s helps us move to a larger, dedicated space with the technology needed to organize, mobilize and engage the community in the community. Often this kind of work happens at a university. What makes this unique is that this isn’t a think tank. It’s an action tank in the heart of Avondale.”

The work is challenging, he admits—reforming police practices in Cincinnati and surrounding communities, eliminating racial profiling, reducing use of force, increasing police accountability, and establishing community oversight boards. Koen says, “The response has been incredible from police agencies in the area. They don’t want to be the department that has a George Floyd incident. We’re working with them and being proactive to say, ‘Here are the best practices that help build trust in communities and here’s how we can work together on what needs to change.’”

(Pictured) Hirsch Walking Trail

What do Avondale residents have to say about the five-year investment and Cincinnati Children’s commitment to community?

“Cincinnati Children’s is an amazing partner with Avondale. As a resident, I have had the opportunity to see the many ways the hospital invests in the community. From providing funding to upgrading much needed childcare centers, to sponsoring in-school health centers, to offering forgivable loans for exterior home improvements, and providing career opportunities for Avondale residents, Cincinnati Children’s is an exemplary model of a good neighbor and outstanding corporate citizen.” - Linda Thomas, Avondale resident “Cincinnati Children’s is a reliable, unifying partner and advocate that brings people together. Cincinnati Children’s has created a table where we all use our collective strengths and power for the benefit of children and the community.” - Michael Allison, principal – South Avondale Elementary School “Community leaders now have a seat at the table as we work with Cincinnati Children’s to impact children, health, employment and so many in the community. We will have a grocery store after 12 years. Our impact on the schools has been tremendous. The impact we’ve made on children will pay dividends long after we are gone… we are shaping little lives.” - Henry Brown, Avondale resident "Avondale is a beautiful, beloved, historic and family-oriented community that I have called 'home' for 37 years. I am grateful for Cincinnati Children’s investment in Avondale because it has provided the community with a transformative 'economic shot-in-the-arm.'  Avondale is growing into a thriving community, and I look forward to Cincinnati Children's continued support and collaboration with residents and other stakeholders.” - Johnie Davis, Avondale resident

“I am so proud of the tremendous impact and generosity that Cincinnati Children’s continues to have toward Avondale. As an anchor institution, you continue to play a vital role, making improvements in the quality of life of our residents. Examples include making a new grocery store possible after decades of being a food desert and providing thousands of computers and free internet access during the pandemic to CPS families. I shudder to think where we would be without Cincinnati Children’s. As someone who grew up in Avondale and still lives here, I am grateful for Cincinnati Children’s investment in Avondale and the City of Cincinnati.” - Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, City of Cincinnati, Avondale resident "Cincinnati Children's investment has made a real impact. Behind the dashboards, metrics, and data are the stories of personal transformation we hear about through the programmatic investments. The opportunity before us is to aggressively address the structural and historical racism that undergirds the social determinants of health—impacting the Black community and Avondale residents for too long.” - Eddie Koen, executive director, Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio

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