MANSFIELD, Ohio – The Ocie Hill Neighborhood Center, a building that has played a large role in the North End community for generations, is now home to the North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Inc. (NECIC) Teaching Garden and Community Garden offices and classrooms.
The offices offer more than a location convenient to the nearly-adjacent Blust Avenue Teaching Garden. Holding a place in the Ocie Hill building offers a piece of North End history
“Personally, I’ve always looked at Ocie Hill as the center of the North End, and I think a lot of other people see it that way, as well,” said NECIC Community Development Manager Tony Chinni. The building, among its many incarnations, served as a school to a large number of area residents, including members of the North End Elder Program.
“Even the name, Ocie Hill, is significant,” said Chinni. “Ocie Hill was the first African American elected to Mansfield city council, and he served from 1961 to 1991. He was a leader who did a lot for the North End and the Black community.”
Chinni noted that the Ocie Hill Neighborhood Center and the NECIC Blust Avenue Teaching Garden are embedded in target areas identified in the NECIC North End Community Economic Development Plan. “I think it’s important that we have a presence in the neighborhood, that people see us out doing our work,” he said.
“It has been very convenient to have an office so close to the garden,” said NECIC Blust Avenue Teaching Garden Coordinator Mona Kneuss. “The kids are able to stay despite the weather and continue our education or activity indoors. It has allowed us to avoid class cancellations, as well.”
The garden offers classes to youth and adults, as well as a Youth Native Plants Club and a youth garden club, known as Green Peoplez, for 7th through 12th grade students. The garden also hosts 4-H meetings, which are open to ages 9 and up.
The NECIC Community Toolshed is now located in the Ocie Hill rear parking lot, with NECIC Community Garden Organizer Walter Bonham manning the helm. This toolshed allows North End residents access to free hand tools between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily, and access to gas-powered items for a fee of $5 per calendar month.
The NECIC North End Farmers’ Market is held weekly at the NECIC Blust Avenue Teaching Garden, managed by Kneuss. She said it is convenient to have an office with such easy access to the market, as well.
For more information about the market, Teaching Garden, 4-H, or youth clubs, call Mona Kneuss at 419-522-1611, extension 116, or email Mona@necic-ohio.org. For information about the Community Toolshed or community gardens, call Walter Bonham at 419-522-1611, extension 110, or email Walter@necic-ohio.org.