They’ll never say, “I don’t know.”
If they’re unsure of an answer, they’ll find it. And since April 26, the new Clean & Safe downtown ambassadors program has kept visitors more informed and streets cleaner. The 40 men and women who serve as the city’s new roving friendly faces were selected from a pool of more than 600 applicants. Similar to privately funded programs in Cincinnati, Columbus and Nashville, costs are covered by assessments to property owners in the Downtown Cleveland Improvement District stretching from West 10th to East 18th Street.
To get a feel for what the ambassadors encounter on an average shift, we accompanied two of them on a recent weekend afternoon:
1:30 p.m. Dispatcher Juanita Miller greets us at the program’s East 17th Street and St. Clair Avenue office. She answers radio and phone calls and oversees a worker schedule for Charlie Stevens, who takes us to meet Safety Ambassador Ron Bethel.
2:15 p.m. Bethel usually works in the Warehouse District, but today he’s in the Gateway neighborhood. He tells me people commonly ask to be escorted to their cars. “I’ve caught my share of people trying to break into cars,” Bethel says. “Now when they see me, they know I mean business.”
2:30 p.m. We head toward Tower City Center and then over to Jacobs Field, where the Tribe is taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bethel greets everyone we pass. He says the most serious incident he’s seen so far was a fight between a few dozen female minors. “When someone’s life may be in danger, it’s hard to not step in and do the necessary,” Bethel says, adding he must call the police rather than get involved. “It’s all a matter of discretion and good judgment.”
3:15 p.m. Bethel stops to talk to Rick, a homeless man he often sees near the ballpark’s main entrance. When Bethel politely asks him to get out of the garbage can he’s sitting in, the man begins to argue, then honors the request. “If you kill them with kindness,” Bethel says, “they can never say anything back to you.”
3:30 p.m. After our patrol with Bethel, Stevens takes us to the Warehouse District to meet Cleaning Ambassador Kenny Brooks. He tells us he often speaks with the neighborhood’s business owners to learn how he can help. “The other day I was talking to a restaurant owner who just had his property power-washed by a private company,” Brooks says. “I told him we do it for free … next time he needs it done he knows to call on me.”
4 p.m. I follow Brooks down a side street, where he picks up trash and uses a special spray to remove graffiti from the side of a building. “We’ve gotten many compliments since the ambassadors started and it really makes me feel good about what I’m doing,” he says. “I really love my job and I take pride in it.”
More than 1,000 Cuyahoga County children are waiting to be adopted and pictures of some of the teens and pre-teens on that list are being displayed at Tower City Center’s Heart Gallery, an exhibit of photography created by Adoption Network Cleveland. “Of all the children in Cuyahoga County waiting to be adopted, only 40-some are over the age of 10,” says Heart Gallery coordinator Holly Spencer-Trueman. “We don’t want to just create an awareness, we want to move people toward adoption. We are putting a name to the face.” Twelve professional photographers donated their time to capture the personalities and unique characteristics of each child featured in the exhibit. The idea came from New Mexico social worker Diane Granito, who created the first Heart Gallery in 2001. The Heart Gallery at Tower City Center is free and open to the public 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and will remain open until May 2007.
Twenty-five of man’s best friends are on the loose in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood and waiting to be adopted. Well, sort of. The fiberglass dog sculptures painted by artists such as Hector Vega, as well as dog-loving local celebrities including Fox 8 weatherman Dick Goddard, were installed in the neighborhood May 23 by St. Clair Superior Development Corp. as a way to honor the Chinese Year of the Dog “Our agency developed the idea to promote cultural diversity in neighborhoods and drive business to the community,” says Jamie Blackson Baker, SCSDC executive director. “The dogs are here, there and everywhere. They are strategically positioned to move people through the community and drive economic development.” The artwork will be on display through Sept. 18. The dogs will then go up for public auction Oct. 21 at Josaphat Arts Hall. www.stclairsuperior.org.