Frostburg State University on Thursday, Feb. 13, launched its ambitious, wide-ranging Community Outreach Partnership Center, made possible by a federal grant of $383,709, to serve the Virginia Avenue and Maryland Avenue areas in Cumberland and the city of Frostburg.
The Center is a university-wide partnership that links FSU faculty, their service-learning course curricula and their students to work side-by-side with the community - including more than 40 community organizations, including community and business leaders, nonprofit agencies and neighborhood organizations - to address unmet needs. The COPC grant will be an initiative of the FSU Institute for Service-Learning under the Center for Volunteerism and National Service.
"We are indebted to FSU professors Kathleen Powell and Peggy Dalton, for having suggested some years ago that we work with the community to pursue a COPC grant," said FSU President Dr. Catherine R. Gira. "Cherie Krug and her staff in FSU's Center for Volunteerism and National Service then embraced the idea and began to do the important work of making connections with community agencies through the ties that have been forged by our AmeriCorps programs.
"This is a very prestigious, very competitive grant. We are delighted not only for the University, for the recognition it brings to our community service contingent, but also for the communities of Frostburg and Cumberland, which will be the direct beneficiaries of the grant," Gira continued.
Through surveys of residents and community meetings, the partnership identified needs that will be addressed by the Center's activities.
One need to be addressed by the Center is in improving building infrastructure, community organizing and planning in the Maryland Avenue and Virginia Avenue areas of Cumberland. Neighborhood associations from those two areas have expressed a great need for training and support to assist them in establishing organizational structure, applying for non-profit status, developing volunteer networks, writing grants, developing programs and fund-raising.
In Frostburg, there is no neighborhood association, and help is needed to organize residents and establish community programs. Effort is also needed to join FSU and the community in positive collaboration and avoid tension between the two groups. The Center would coordinate training programs and service projects with community organizations, FSU faculty and service-learning students to help build lasting partnerships.
In the area of economic development, job training, education and health care, the Center will help coordinate information about already available services. FSU faculty members and three community agencies, the Office of Social Services; the Office of Children Youth and Families; and Family Junction, will create the database, and the new E-Coordination center will provide a database of available services in employment training, business assistance, lending and health, then a coordinated system will allow the user to local all services available to that individual.
As for housing issues, the Center will establish a neighborhood real estate marketing campaign to encourage home ownership in the targeted neighborhoods as a way of reducing crime in those neighborhoods. The Virginia Avenue neighborhood association documented that most of the police reports filed in that area come from transient residents in houses owned by out-of-town landlords. Many of the houses in the targeted neighborhoods were built by prominent architects at the beginning of the 20th century, but time and a depressed local economy have taken their toll on what were magnificent structures. Many could be renovated if buyers could be found and linked with resources to help. FSU faculty and service learning students will assist the neighborhoods in the campaign by showing the potential of available properties and training buyers to gain available resources to use in restoration of these homes.
The grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Under the COPC program, colleges and universities are provided with funds to develop, coordinate and administer partnerships with community organizations to solve problems and strengthen neighborhoods in urban areas.