Nonprofit focuses on "cultivating overlooked" areas in Cleveland

Nonprofit focuses on "cultivating overlooked" areas in Cleveland

Photo by Anna Shand.

City Fields is a nonprofit organization that endeavors to develop and revitalize neighborhoods in Cleveland, Tennessee. Through fostering physical and social revitalization, economic development, neighborhood safety and leadership development, they are working to cultivate healthier communities. 

Lee has partnered with City Fields several times before. For the past two years, groups of Summer Honors students and Benevolence students have served as volunteers for City Fields.

Brittany Gates, assistant director of the counseling center, partnered with City Fields last year with her Benevolence class. 

“City Fields cares holistically about the development of communities and their residents,” said Gates. “They are truly working from the inside out—building relationships with residents, hearing their needs and responding to these needs.”

City Fields focuses on rehabilitation and development in Cleveland communities. Among their various projects, they recently designed a playground, planted a community garden and continuously renovate homes. 

Blythe Oldfield Playground on Blythe Avenue. Photo by Anna Shand.

City Fields partners with residents and other local nonprofits to bring the community together. They do so by encouraging homeowners and renters to take pride in where they live. 

“City Fields is in it for the long haul,” said Gates. “They have a keen sense of knowing how to see the whole picture and invest in the whole community by being mindful of the needs of the individual person.” 

The emphasis on community is especially important to the people of City Fields. Rusty Langford, community engagement coordinator at City Fields, explains that the garden has grown and flourished for several years now.

“Ours has stayed pretty healthy because the residents have been the champions of it,” said Langford.

The impact City Fields has on Cleveland is evident. The residents of Blythe Oldfield, a neighborhood a few blocks from Lee’s campus, have begun to unite together as a community.

A house currently under construction by the City Fields team. Photo by Anna Shand.

City Fields’ emphasis on community is one reason why Langford believes Lee students enjoy volunteering with the organization. She noted their willingness to jump in and help wherever they are needed. 

“They don’t always know what it is they’re looking for, so we stick them where we need help the most,” Langford said.

A community library for residents to borrow books. Photo by Anna Shand.

Dustin Tommey, executive director of City Fields, touched on the issue that college students can oftentimes feel as though they are a part of a “bubble.” He believes it is beneficial for any college student to break out of their bubble and experience life outside a college campus. 

“Lee has an incredible opportunity and responsibility as a Christian institution to be a good neighbor… And I would challenge any Lee student to find ways to be a good neighbor,” Tomney said. “That includes having loving and intentional relationships with people outside of the bubble.”

Gates has also seen positive effects in students breaking out of their own bubble by diving into their community and developing relationships with their neighbors. 

“If [students] take time to know the members of the community, then [they] see the strengths they themselves can bring into their community,” Gates said. “It is not just about an outsider coming in and doing the work, but instead, someone from the outside helping foster the strengths that already exist within that community and working together toward desired change.”

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