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Nonprofit receives small grant to organize Syracuse's north and south side volunteers

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Tom Magnarelli
/
WRVO News
John DeSantis, the founder of the nonprofit Believe in Syracuse.

A small grant will help kick-start community organizing on Syracuse’s north and south sides. A survey found those neighborhoods have the least amount of community involvement in neighborhood watch or civic groups.

John DeSantis, the founder of the nonprofit Believe in Syracuse, received $2,000 from the Central New York Community Foundation to organize volunteers on the north and south sides to plan neighborhood improvement projects. About 600 people in the city responded to the survey, but those specifically on the south side said they are proud of the city parks and have strong connections with their neighbors, but they want an improvement with their relationship with police.

“I see us working with the Syracuse Police Department to foster better communication between residents on the south side and the police," DeSantis said. "Similar to what neighborhood watch groups have done for many years.”

The responses also indicated that people want cleanliness and property maintenance to improve in their neighborhoods.

“During the winter we could have a volunteer project when there’s a big storm we go and shovel sidewalks on the south side," DeSantis said. "In the spring we could do a spring cleaning, picking up trash, mowing lawns.”

DeSantis is a full time volunteer at the organization that has been around for almost three years. He takes no salary and just opened a small office on the south side.

"The whole concept for this program is it's driven by ordinary people," DeSantis said. "It's about bringing them together so they can organize on a grassroots level."

DeSantis will spend the next few months meeting one-on-one with individuals interested in volunteering to be project managers.