Neighborhood Alliance (formerly Neighborhood House Association, Inc.), began in 1926 in the front room of a tiny house on East 30th Street. An Oberlin College graduate named Mary Haskell, a former Christian missionary in Bulgaria, recognized that many persons who were brought to Lorain from Southern Europe to work in the steel mill were having difficulty adjusting to their new country and new language. In 1927, the group Miss Haskell started was called the Americanization Center. Classes in English, citizenship and well-baby clinics were the first services offered. Miss Haskell was soon joined by Miss Beard and Miss Ayers, also Oberlin students. By this time the group had moved to 29th Street and were offering activities to 89 adults and children. In 1929, the name was changed to Neighborhood House and the group became connected to the Lorain Community Chest.
By 1930, it became clear that a full time director was needed. Miss Sina K. Evans, a graduate of Hull House in Chicago, became the resident worker and Miss Mildred Bond, trained at Northwestern and Hull House, became the children’s worker.
During these early years, a close relationship existed between Neighborhood Alliance and the Sociology Department at Oberlin College. The college provided a research director who did numerous studies and histories of South Lorain and its ethnic groups. As the number of countries represented increased, Neighborhood Alliance worked with each group to help preserve the special cultural richness of each group. The folk festivals sponsored by Neighborhood Alliance for so many years eventually expanded to become the International Festival which is so widely celebrated today.
Neighborhood Alliance helped establish parents clubs, a kindergarten, neighborhood clean up and renovation, playgrounds, a music school, dramatics clubs, health studies and canteen nights for teenagers.
During the depression years, the staff was augmented with WPA (Works Progress Administration) and NYA (National Youth Administration) workers.
During World War II years, housing problems became more acute. The first housing project in the city, Fulton Homes, was built, but there were still overcrowded conditions. At this point many Mexican and Black families moved into the neighborhood, recruited by the steel mill. Three full shifts of workers were working at National Tube. After the war, many Puerto Rican families were brought to Lorain to supply the continuing need for labor.
Neighborhood Alliance worked very hard during these years to help the neighbors from very different cultures learn to live and work together. Citizenship classes were full, and interracial committees were set up to help people work together. Miss Evans helped set up tenant councils and served on the Mayor’s emergency housing group. Neighborhood Alliance helped develop the first housing code passed by City Council. The Agency was active in supporting fair employment practices and sponsored a Human Relations Program on the radio.
During the 1950′s, Mayor John C. Jaworski began to recognize that the older citizens of Lorain would benefit from some special programming. This was the beginning of the Golden Age Club. It was also the beginning of the extensive service to seniors which Neighborhood Alliance offers today.
In 1959 the present administration building was built. The focus of the Agency’s work continued to be citizenship and English classes, but now there was greater concentration on solving personal and family problems and providing food and shelter. New activities included tutoring and hosting homemaker and dress-making clubs. Child care and recreation programming continued to be popular.
Sina K. Evans stayed until her death in 1964. Lois Bielfelt became Director of Neighborhood Alliance in 1965, when the Agency recognized the need for programming and a special building in the City View area. Director Bielfelt and the staff worked with community volunteers and neighbors in the City View area to provide programs, at first in the “Pink Elephant”, a former bar in the area, and later to work with over 1,500 businesses, churches and individuals to develop City View Center. Jim Doughman (Nordson Corporation), architect Jack Clark, and John Corogin contributed countless hours helping to manage the construction. This effort resulted in the Agency winning an outstanding achievement award from the National Federation of Settlements, now called United Neighborhood Centers of America. Mrs. Estella Lacey became the first City View Director in 1968.
In 1969 the Elyria Neighborhood Center, a demonstration project of the Elyria United Way, agreed to join with Neighborhood Alliance. The Agency was then offering service in three locations, and the name was changed to Neighborhood House Association of Lorain County, Inc. to include the county-wide service.
Much work with urban renewal and housing continued. As the first high-rises for the elderly were built, the agency helped seniors move in, staffed the tenant councils, and continued to work with widows and widowers. At the request of former LMHA Housing Director Ron Ashley, Neighborhood Alliance began a volunteer food service for seniors in 1969. The food service was eventually federally funded and expanded throughout the county.
As the houses surrounding Neighborhood Alliance were raised to be replaced by federal housing projects, the Agency worked with the neighbors to ensure stability in the neighborhood and to assist the new apartment dwellers to adjust to their surroundings. The Mildred M. Bond Day Care Center came into being to aid mostly single parent families and working mothers with low average incomes.
In 1970 the main building was renamed Sina K. Evans House, in memory of the first Director. In the early 1970’s the growing needs of senior citizens became apparent. The old County Council on Aging was reactivated and renamed the Senior Citizens Association of Lorain County. It was staffed by Neighborhood Alliance until a full time Director could be recruited.
As unemployment rose sharply, the Comprehensive Employment Training Act was passed. CETA outreach counselors were based at the Neighborhood Alliance Centers. The Senior Information and Referral services were created. Outreach offices were established in Elyria, Lorain, North Ridgeville, Oberlin and Wellington. These cities contributed some funds to support the programs. Later, the senior outreach offices became independent entities. The Golden Agers group in Lorain was very active. In 1972, Elyria Center’s first Director, Jay Sharp, went on to graduate school. Mr. William Lewis replaced Mr. Sharp. During Mr. Lewis’ tenure, the Senior Club at Elyria Center became more active and a mini-van was donated for seniors to use.
In the late 1970’s, protective services for the elderly were developed as a result of the problems being experienced by seniors throughout the County. As our senior services workers helped individual seniors find appropriate services, they discovered numerous incidents of abuse, neglect, self-neglect and exploitation. In later years, this service was covered by the State of Ohio’s protective service law and its function was absorbed by the Human Services Department. Another service which seniors had need of was housekeeping/home health care. The agency hired a registered nurse to manage the program and for a number of years it served 200-250 seniors per year.
A program to meet the emergency service counseling needs of low income families and individuals was established at Sina K. Evans House (SKE) to serve the County.
By 1979, the agency was providing 600 meals per day in the Senior Nutrition Program at eight nutrition sites, fifteen percent of which were home-delivered. The Lorain County Community Action Agency was a sub-contractor.
A food stamp office was installed at the Elyria Center to meet a pressing community need. A program of homemaking skills was established at Wilkes Villa.
In April 1980, after fifteen years of service, Lois Bielfelt resigned and was replaced by Ron Cahn. During the two years that he served as Director, the City View Dedication Ceremony occurred. The Spanish senior meal site moved from Southside Gardens to International Plaza in Lorain. Requests were made to foundations to help meet the emergency needs of Lorain County Citizens.
In March 1982, Helene Stone took over as Acting Director, and in July 1982, Paul Buccino began his work as Executive Director. The county’s economic situation continued to worsen. Needs for clothing, rent and utilities increased dramatically. As needs increased, programs were changed to meet more basic needs.
During this period, the problem of homelessness became apparent. A pilot housing counseling program, funded by a special United Way grant, provided services to families threatened with foreclosure.
The Agency developed an accrual accounting system which better monitored federal, state, foundation and private grants.
Elyria Neighborhood Centers (ENC) Art Program continued to grow, presenting yearly art shows at Stocker Center at Lorain County Community College and dance recitals. The focus of the ENC, with Carol Gordon as Center Director, was meeting community emergency needs, providing educational support to young people and helping teen parents.
Needs expressed by our senior participants and concerned agencies led to the planning of an Assisted Living Center in conjunction with the Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) moneys were made available and the agency reached out to the low income and minority communities by acting as fiscal agent for several years. Hot meals programs and emergency boxed programs were developed county-wide. Hot meals were served at SKE House and City View Center. Boxed food was available at ENC and SKE House.
An intergenerational group home was in the planning stages in 1983-1984. A group from Oberlin, including Bob Thomas, Jeanne Butts and Dave Clark, sought the agency’s support and sponsorship of this project.
By 1984, 530 persons had received emergency shelter in area motels. This represented a tenfold increase from 1981. The Lakeview Assisted Living Center opened in July 1984. By 1985 the center had expanded to three floors.
Mildred Bond worked with Neighborhood Alliance for 54 years, “retiring” in 1984.
In 1985 the first staffed emergency shelter opened in Wilkes Villa in Metropolitan Housing units made available by LMHA for that purpose.
Estella Lacey left City View Center in 1986, to be succeeded by Annette Caldwell. Since its inception, the City View Center has provided a number of year round programs for youth development. Emergency Meals have been an on-going service. City View Center also houses a senior meals program and a Head Start program. It serves as a base for a community drug prevention program. Numerous civil organizations use its facilities for meetings. Many families use it for special family events.
In 1986 comprehensive services for teen parents were developed in conjunction with Case Western Reserve School of Applied Social Sciences. In addition, the Lorain County Joint Vocational School coordinated some programs with our youth services.
In 1989 construction began on the Jeanne Beattie Butts House – an intergenerational group home. Open since 1990, it is the first intergenerational group home in the nation that provides services to the elderly and houses college students in the facility.
By April of 1990, the in-house computerized fiscal accounting system was in place.
The Senior Nutrition program expanded its home-delivered meals program through the western half of the county and provided meals to the El Dorado Center in cooperation with El Centro. In 1991, the home-delivered percentage of total senior meals served had reached 49%. Neighborhood Alliance also began coordinating Thanksgiving and Christmas Day meals delivery.
After several years of providing homeless shelter services at Wilkes Villa, the agency established a Homeless Task Force. The result of the task force’s work was to support fund raising and the building of the Haven Center Emergency Shelter, which was completed in January of 1992. Haven houses 54 persons a night and has served over 800 persons in 1992. In 1992, through the efforts of the Board, staff and Marvin and Dottie Anderson, Capital Fund Chairpersons, a Capital Fund Drive raised $270,000 to improve the Neighborhood House buildings. With the additional funds raised for the shelter, this figure ultimately climbed to over $400,000.
In 1993-1994 a number of agencies added services to the Haven Center, including the Lorain City Health Department, the Nord Center, the Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Agency and the Human Services Department. Funds were awarded to improve the Haven Center kitchen and storage area. A new financial system was installed.
Head Start joined forces with our Day Care Program.
On January 1, 1995, through a merger agreement, the Oberlin Seniors Inc. joined the agency to become Oberlin Seniors of Neighborhood House Association. This dynamic program for seniors in Oberlin and surrounding townships further strengthens our presence in the central and southern part of the county, adding to our meals program and adult care facility (JBB House) in Oberlin.
Changes in the funding through the years have shifted from 98 percent United Way money to about 16 percent, the rest provided by federal, state and local foundation grants and Title XX services through Lorain County Department of Job and Family Services. The Agency is still very dependent upon area churches for help and support because they are able to help in ways that the restricted state and federal dollars cannot.
In May 2006, following the retirement of Paul Buccino, Michael C. Mayse joined Neighborhood Alliance as President and CEO. Neighborhood Alliance has been crucial in helping individuals of Lorain County through the current precarious economic situation. Though funding has been cut, Neighborhood Alliance has been able to withstand many hardships. In 2007, the first annual Walk for the Homeless was held to raise money for the Haven Center and has continued every year since. In February, 2011, Michael Mayse resigned from Neighborhood Alliance in order to take a position in Chicago. In May 2011, Connie Osborn was announced as the new President and CEO of Neighborhood Alliance.
On September 21, 2011 Neighborhood House Association officially became Neighborhood Alliance.