- Great Lakes Urban
UpTurn Builds Belonging: Meet Thomas White
Visit https://upturnohio.com/ to learn more about Thomas' organization
We love to feature the people and leaders that together make up strong neighborhoods. Thomas White, Executive Director of UpTurn Ohio, is one such person. Great Lakes Urban has had the privilege of providing Thomas with training and coaching. We caught up with him to learn more.
Will you share a little about yourself and about UpTurn Ohio?
UpTurn Ohio is a 501c(3) nonprofit Community Development Corporation that empowers the neighborhoods in Springfield to thrive. We invest deeply in one block at a time, building upon each neighborhood’s strengths and goals. We're currently focused on the Spring Hill neighborhood, which is where I have lived for more than 10 years. It's a neighborhood with a rich history of independence and innovation and, today, a lot of economic and social isolation issues. I come to my role as UpTurn's Executive Director with a lot of private sector experience, but I have always had a heart for the city.
Will you share a little about what you've been up to, and your vision?
I Began my work in Spring Hill in June of 2022, shortly after identifying Asset Based Community Development, or ABCD, as the tool that would work best in our community. I tested my listening skills using existing relationships with neighbors, and began listening as I walked and biked through the area. My neighbor and I hosted a lunch on the lawn, and we did door knocking to meet neighbors, invite them, and listen. We found that most of our neighbors wanted to engage with each other and have events but didn’t know the best way to go about it. With this information, we began to take a deep dive into making every effort to build trust. We've started building better social engagements in my block with the hopes of creating an example of what could happen throughout the rest of the neighborhood.
How has the partnership with Great Lakes Urban benefited your work?
I had a very specific vision for community work that I was unable to put a name to, nor did I know of any resources that would help me develop my thoughts on it. I was connected with Eric Smith through a mutual friend in May of 2022, and in the first conversation Eric named what I saw and provided me with tools, training, and a network of like minded people through Great Lakes Urban (GLU). Eric and Jay Van Groningen have been a wealth of knowledge for me, and during a visit to Holland, Michigan for an in-person training, Jay personally showed me a hospitality I’d never experienced before. In my short time in partnership with GLU, I feel equipped and empowered to do the work God has called me to do, and I don’t feel alone.
Thank you, Thomas, for sharing your story! It's an honor to be walking this journey with you!