Pink Lemonade on 2nd Ave.

As Eva and I explored the canyons of Sam’s Club searching for lemonade mix (not Crystal Light), bagged cookies, bagged pretzels, and ice, she gave me a rundown of the Sam’s layout and some of her favorite items to purchase there. When we located the lemonade mix, we were faced with the dire choice–regular or pink? All my gallivanting around the store influenced my risky decision to go for pink. Admittedly, another shopper also influenced my decision when (unsolicited) she told Eva and I to get the kind we wanted and not to think about those who will be drinking it. That kind of self-satisfaction is questionable, but we went with it.

Walking out onto the steaming asphalt to load up the car, Eva realized we had forgotten to buy ice. We stood there debating whether or not to go back in or to stop at a gas station on the way back to the office. She decided just to go back inside since we were already there. Only two cashiers were open. And standing in line at both of them were people stocking up for a post-apocolyptic world full of young children craving solely Oreos and Twizzlers. Rather than waiting in line for these consumers to purchase hundreds of high-sugar snack items, Eva and I decided to stop at a gas station for the ice that would come to cool our wild and raucous pink lemonade.

Another immense task was the preparation of the pink lemonade. Standing in the kitchen with co-workers on their lunch breaks, I scooped 32 carefully/liberally measured cups of pink lemonade mix into an orange water cooler. Luckily my co-workers were skilled enough at differential calculus to ensure that my measurements were correct in order to concoct the appropriate amount of refreshing pink lemonade.

This morning adventure was necessary to supply light refreshments for our first Habitat homeowner meeting in Milo-Grogan. The meeting was intended to introduce our partner families in Milo-Grogan to the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) that Habitat has committed to for at least 3 years. I sent an invitation to every Habitat homeowner in Milo-Grogan. I called every homeowner in Milo-Grogan to remind them and invite them with a friendly phone-voice. I waited for RSVPs. Then I waited on Wednesday for them to show up.

Three did. Three very friendly and willing homeowners came to our meeting to learn about NRI. We talked to them about the program, listened to their concerns and learned from their experiences.

The lack of attendance isn’t as discouraging as you may think. I had been warned that very few people (if any) would come. Gathering people from low-income neighborhoods can be daunting and difficult due to a multitude of factors. But, as they say, quality is more important than quantity. People have vision for Milo-Grogan, they see its potential and are willing to work towards a more positive future. 

On a separate and more disheartening note, I went to the OSU library today to pick up a reserve: Milo-Grogan Area Plan 35. In the 1970s the planning division of the Department of Development of the City of Columbus (of the, of the, of the) undertook a series of neighborhood plans for the city. Milo-Grogan (plan 35) was one of 38 studies completed by the planning division that outlined the neighborhood’s deficiencies and proposed solutions. Aside from some outdated racial langauge, this 1973 document is surprisingly progressive and optimistic regarding the challenges facing Milo-Grogan. It noted the negative effect of I-71’s construction in the early 1960s and acknowledged the isolation of the neighborhood from goods and services. In addition, it discusses environmental health concerns, lack of parks and open space, “incompatible” land use, and housing opportunities.

The publication made 10 recommendations for positive change in Milo-Grogan. In 1973, the issues facing Milo-Grogan were nearly identical to the issues facing Milo-Grogan in 2011. In 1973, the goals for improving Milo, the recommended actions for bettering the neighborhood, and the vision for a more prosperous Milo were nearly the same as they are in 2011. At least we’re consistent, right?

This realization alerts us to the true forgotten nature of the once-thriving urban core. Milo-Grogan, a former working class mixed-used light industrial and residential neighborhood, is stuck in 1973 at the pinnacle of white flight and the great urban exodus.

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