ASB Improves Community Life
by Rachel Williams
Alternative Spring Break is a community service program in which Transylvania students travel to a needy community during the week of spring break and lend a hand to those in need.
This spring, ASB is travelling to a homeless community in downtown Cincinnati called Over-the-Rhine. Every year about 7,000 homeless people are drawn to Over-the-Rhine because of the services it offers them.
“There is a drug rehabilitation center, homeless shelters, and a homeless speaker’s bureau which is there to raise awareness about issues people face being homeless and to break down stereotypes that people want to be homeless or that homeless people are dangerous. That’s why we are going, to break down those barriers,” AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer Ashley Gutshall said.
Over-the-Rhine is a historic community, known for its masses of structures based on Italian architecture. During the 19th century, the community was the center of German life, containing more than 50 breweries. Prohibition caused most of the breweries to close and unfortunately, few of them reopened.
By the early 20th century, the German ethnic group was no longer the main demographic of Over-the-Rhine. World War I and World War II saw a steady decline in the neighborhood’s population as German-Americans began to abandon the ethnic enclave and anti-German feelings grew stronger in the country.
The WWI and WWII era also saw a decline in overall population as the previously immigrant population became wealthy and moved out of the neighborhood. Simultaneously, the migrants from the south and Appalachia were drawn to the area because of the opportunities for industrial employment. African-Americans fleeing the economic and social situation in the south also settled in Over-the-Rhine. The area then became known as a working class neighborhood.
Many recent revitalization efforts have been made to restore the neighborhood to its former verve. A redevelopment project has had success in trying to attract young professionals and empty-nesters into the neighborhood. But the area still needs some help.
“They have been having some gentrification issues. They are trying to fix up some places and resell them,” Gutshall said.
While ASB students will not be helping with the revitalization efforts, they will be helping with the day to day tasks that keep the community running.
“We will be serving a meal at a homeless shelter, helping out at a daycare center where over 90 percent of the kids come from Over-the-Rhine and doing yard work. We will also be listening to a speaker from Miami [University] of Ohio which has a study abroad program at Over-the-Rhine,” Gutshall said.
The ASB trip is not all work though, the volunteers will have some time just to relax and have fun.
“We will also have a social activity. We will be going to the [Newport] Aquarium,” Gutshall said.
Students will get to explore the Newport Aquarium as well as Newport on the Levee, if they so choose. Newport on the Levee is a popular mall located near the aquarium.
This year is Gutshall’s first time heading up the ASB trip, and she is confident that the trip will be enjoyable and productive.
“I think it’ll be fun because we’ve got a really good group of people who will be able to carry on after this class graduates,” Gutshall said, “And because Over-the-Rhine is so close, it will be easier to relate to Lexington.”