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Posted on Tuesday January 2, 2024 by

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Who You Gonna Call? Dispatch Services!

A Look at Block by Block Managed Dispatch Service Programs for Hollywood Partnership and Union Square

Two people in black look at three computer screens.

Two Dispatch Team Members look at computers at the Hollywood Partnership Dispatch Center.

Block by Block is known for delivering exceptional service in public spaces, but our operations go far beyond what is seen at the street level. We operate sophisticated, multifaceted programs that support our teams, customers and their stakeholders in the field. With the addition of dispatch services, we can elevate our service level capacity for our customers.

While most Block by Block Ambassador Programs across the country respond to calls and requests for services, we are seeing an increased need for formalized dispatch services for the districts we serve. Urban place management organizations (UPMO) have brought dispatch services to the community level to fill gaps in services provided by city resources.

District-led dispatch services operate much like traditional emergency response — answering calls, dispatching teams, monitoring surveillance and providing an added layer of support for the community. They also lend to the customer service experience by doubling as call-in concierge services for business, residents and visitors alike. Our teams are equipped to handle requests for service ranging from cleanups to intercepting individuals causing disruptions in the public space.

Dispatch services also have a positive impact on businesses and stakeholders in a community. Public Safety escorts create a better employee experience in today’s tough job market, immediate response to calls means the frustrations of street level incidents are easier to manage (aiding employee retention) and the reports generated by this work can be directly tied back to the specific properties, enabling UPMOs to show the value of the work and identify areas where resources could be more effectively deployed.

Supplementing services

For many UPMOs across the country, bringing services like cleaning, public safety and dispatch in-house has allowed districts to create better outcomes for their community by supplementing amenities currently provided by the city. By utilizing in-house Dispatch Services, district users can expect quicker response times while preventing unnecessary calls to the police department.

In January of 2023, The Hollywood Partnership (HP) in Los Angeles unveiled its new Community Dispatch Center which aimed to streamline cleaning, safety and hospitality efforts across the district. It operates around-the-clock with about 90 Safety Ambassadors, Cleaning Ambassadors and Dispatch Members working at any given time. General Manager Sergio Andrades says the community is “like Vegas—never stopping, never sleeping.”

In their first six months, HP Dispatch received over 9,400 calls for service, including requests for welfare checks, cleanups, safety escorts and more (Hollywood Partnership Community Dispatch Center 6-Month Update). Sergio said most of the calls that come through in the evening are for safety escorts and requests to intervene with members of the street population.

In many communities across the country, if a member of the street population is causing a disturbance, the police are called. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, they receive 140,000 calls related to homelessness each year. This occupies police time, can escalate the situation unnecessarily and upset the unhoused individual further.

Because our Ambassadors spend considerable time in their districts, they are known to many members of the community — including the unhoused. When responding to non-emergency calls, Ambassadors can use their established relationships and de-escalation training to handle matters with care and compassion. The Dispatch Center can also help connect individuals with the proper social service agency while monitoring the situation as it unfolds at the street level.

Working with UPMOs, Block by Block has found implementing operations focused on community-based resources for the unhoused and increased safety initiatives, like dispatch centers, is working to enhance perceptions of public safety for our customers all while improving quality of life for the community at large.

“I wanted to commend you on all the work you all put in everyday to make Hollywood Boulevard a better place.” Hollywood resident Sydney Koepke shared via email. “[Before the Ambassadors], it felt super unsafe and dirty. I see a huge difference every day…in how Hollywood is being turned around. I really appreciate you all for continuing to help Hollywood become a safer, cleaner place for all of us.”

Three Hollywood Partnership Ambassadors dressed in different uniforms walk down the street, smiling.

Hollywood Partnership Ambassadors walk through the district.

Synergy of Services

Block by Block launched hospitality services for HP in 2019 with a team of just 14 Ambassadors. By early 2023, Block by Block expanded services to include cleaning, safety and dispatch, growing the program to 90 employees. The client, already familiar with Block by Block, knew working with one company who can fulfill a variety of service needs effectively is easier than consulting with multiple companies to complete tasks that often overlap.

We’ve seen a similar transition for the Union Square Alliance in San Francisco. Block by Block has provided Ambassador Services in various capacities for the improvement district since 2015. Upon contract renewal in October 2023, Block by Block expanded programming to include Member Services — dispatch and other community resources — which was previously managed in-house by Union Square staff. Block by Block not only took over operational duties for the Member Services, but also administrative responsibilities like human resources and payroll for the team.

An added benefit is having a cohesive program all under the operational oversight of one person — General Manager Lance Goree. Lance oversees all elements of the Union Square program including cleaning, hospitality, placemaking and dispatch services. Not only does this provide budgetary benefits for customers, but also elicits a unified response to calls for service.

According to Sergio, Block by Block’s ability to manage Dispatch Services “sets us apart” from other service providers. Without a dedicated Dispatch Team, handling calls for requests falls on UPMO management or the Ambassador Team. These calls can interrupt the busy workload of these individuals, leading to difficulty following up and making sure tasks are completed. With devoted Dispatchers, requests are always completed from beginning to end.

“Our Dispatch Team is waiting for your call,” Sergio said. “They help alleviate requests coming in and they trust that the requests will be completed by the teams in the field. They trust but verify by calling and getting photos. They then follow up with the people who made the requests.”

 

Expanding Community Partnerships 

The HP Community Dispatch Center is unique in that it is a collaborative partnership with the City of Los Angeles, Council District 13, Los Angeles County, LAPD and Hollywood 4WRD. When a call or request comes in, depending on the need of the call, the dispatch team directs the call to one of the aforementioned agencies or to BBB Safety, Hospitality and Cleaning Ambassadors. This allows requests and incidents to be funneled to the appropriate channels which are best suited to handle them most effectively.

A March 2022 survey conducted by the International Downtown Association identified addressing homelessness as the top priority for its U.S. members. For HP, that means working to address homelessness, addiction and mental health concerns for unhoused people in the district by connecting them with programs that can provide services to get the help they need. As calls come in regarding individuals who are unhoused, they can be directed to those in the partnership who work with the specific need.

Recently an assault resulting in a head injury was reported to the Community Dispatch Center. An HP Ambassador was the first to respond and consequently called 911 for an elevated response due to the violent nature of the assault. LAPD response took 30 minutes, during which the Ambassador Team mobilized to keep eyes on the suspect and monitor his location.

The Ambassador had taken a photo of the victim and collected all pertinent information to give to LAPD upon their arrival on the scene, which was after the victim had been transported to the hospital. The Ambassadors directed the LAPD officers to the suspect and subsequently an arrest was made.

“If it weren’t for [the Ambassadors] sticking around and gathering all the information while concurrently monitoring the suspect’s location, LAPD would not have been able to make an arrest and it’s possible the incident wouldn’t even have been documented, much less an arrest effected,” Angela La Riva, Vice President of Operations for HP, said.

“Due to our footprint in the [Hollywood Entertainment District], we are often the first to receive reports of violence and theft. With our [law enforcement] partners being so severely understaffed, we are often tasked to assist in connecting victims with [the police department] and providing important information so an investigation can be conducted. We play an important role in keeping Hollywood safe. This is fantastic work and a great example of how our team can partner with our public safety partners and help victims in the community.”

A diagram beginning with City of Los Angeles Base Services divided into Properties, Businesses, Residents, and Patrons on the first level, then into The Hollywood Partnership Community Dispatch Center which goes into the Camera Network to LAPD, but also to Safety, Hospitality, Custodial or Homelessness Ambassadors/programs.

The Hollywood Partnership Dispatch Center disperses call and email requests through a variety of channels to ensure appropriate responses. (Hollywood Partnership Community Dispatch Center 6-Month Update)

 

Quick, Efficient, Response

Having a dedicated Dispatch Team makes a significant difference in the ability to respond to requests for services. Both HP and Union Square Alliance utilize software that ensures every request is followed through from beginning to end. This guarantees service delivery for community stakeholders, promising districts they always get what they pay for.

The average response time for a request to HP Dispatch is 8-minutes (Community Dispatch Center 6-Month Update). Two HP Dispatchers monitor phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, awaiting calls and emails from district stakeholders, visitors, businesses or residents.

Once a request is received, it is inputted into a software application that alerts the Ambassador Team of the request. The team will respond by priority based on the severity or urgency of the request. For instance, a request to handle a disgruntled individual would take precedence over a graffiti removal request. Sergio said lately there have been many calls requesting trash cleanup, and in June alone his teams collected 78 tons of garbage.

When Dispatch Team Members arrive for their shift, they review the app to ensure requests are being taken care of and reports are being closed. To document a request’s completion, HP Ambassadors will send photos of the completed work in the app or to Block by Block’s proprietary data collection and reporting software, the SMART System.

A Block by Block employee in a blue uniform sweeps the sidewalk in Union Square.

A Union Square Ambassador sweeps up a mess.

Like HP, Union Square Member Services operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phone lines are monitored around the clock to ensure all requests are heard, documented and handled. Union Square also has an elaborate security camera system in place the team monitors for unfolding situations or possible threats that may need to be addressed by Ambassadors, security personnel or police officers.

As calls and requests come in, the team will triage them based on priority and to which department they need to be directed. Requests involving members of the street population are forwarded to the security team, while those that can be handled by Ambassadors are sent to them accordingly. If the situation escalates or calls for it, it will be handed over to local police officers. The requests are dispersed via radio, a queue on SMART System or by calling Team Leads directly on their work phone for requests that are more private in nature.

Union Square uses District360 to manage requests. District360 is a Customer Relationship Management system that works directly with Salesforce that BBB Ambassadors use on their devices. Like in HP, not all requests are for BBB Ambassadors. So, requests are always first entered into Salesforce before being distributed to the responsible parties who may be using other software programs or response plans.

When a request is inputted into Salesforce for an Ambassador, Ambassadors will be pinged in District360 on their handheld devices to notify them that something needs to be addressed. Most of the time, Member Service Team Members will follow up to confirm tasks have been completed, ensuring guaranteed service delivery from beginning to end for stakeholders in the district.

As the landscape of public spaces continues to evolve, the importance of community-based services remains a priority for many UPMOs. Block by Block is focused on providing Ambassador Programs that go beyond clean and safe, and Dispatch Centers like those in Union Square and Hollywood show the value of having a service partner who can deliver on bettering districts.

If you want to discuss how BBB can provide Dispatch Services for your district or community, reach out to Aaron Perri at aperri@blockbyblock.com . 

A Block by Block employee in a blue uniform at Union Square speaks to a business woman.

A Union Square Ambassador provides hospitality.

Posted on Tuesday November 21, 2023 by

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Semu One Bear: Respecting Heritage and a Heritage of Respect

Semu One Bear, Regional Vice President of Northern California

“The Chumash used every bit of what Mother Nature gave them. I am so proud of that culture that I have.”

November is Native American Heritage Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the many contributions Native Americans made and continue to make to The United States. This month, we would like to highlight Block by Block (BBB) Regional Vice President of Northern California, Semu One Bear, who spent his formative years growing up on a Native American reservation in Southern California.

A Love that Crossed the Pacific to Chumash Land

“The teepee we lived in and that’s my dad on the right holding the bow and my grandfather is on his right” – Semu

Semu’s history may seem unique to some, although to him – it’s just the way he was raised. He grew up in a culturally diverse household made up of both Native American and Japanese traditions. Semu’s father was a member of the Chumash Tribe in Southern California, while his mother is Japanese. His father was stationed in Japan while he served in the military, and after serving he later returned to study Japanese. It was then that he met Semu’s mother and the two fell in love.

According to Semu, because of Japanese perceptions of The United States after WWII, his mother’s family did not approve of the relationship at the time. So, the two eloped and moved to The United States, where they would start building their life and family together on land that Semu’s grandfather, a full-blooded Chumash Tribe member, had secured from the United States government.

The Chumash Tribe are some of the original true Californians.

“The Chumash very much used a lot of the gifts that Mother Earth gave them through the ocean. They used natural tar that washes up on shore for their boats and canoes. The land in California provided a lot for the people and they lived off the land very beautifully.”

To this day, you can see locations throughout California named after Native American names, so there is the opportunity to remember the history of the original Californians if one looks close enough.

“This was once a country where we lived off the earth and treated Mother Earth with the respect she deserves. Hopefully, people will eventually realize that and we can go back to that.”

In Chumash culture it is typical to be named after your grandfather, not your father. For this reason, Semu was named after his grandfather, a well-respected Medicine Man in the Chumash Tribe.

Life on the Rez: The Native American Way of Life

“That’s my sister on the far left and I’m standing next to her” – Semu

While living on “the Rez,” as Semu and his sister called it, Tribe Members stuck together and were very close.

“All of the men in the camp were my uncles, I consider them family. It was a very free, very spiritual upbringing,” Semu said.

One school Semu attended while living on Chumash land was a two-room schoolhouse with just a classroom and a gym where first grade to high school students were taught in the same room. Students would even arrive for school on horseback.

There were times when he and his family would stay in teepees. At one point, while they had a cabin being built, they lived exclusively in the teepee until the cabin was finished.

“I loved it as a child. There was a lot of freedom growing up. I would go with the rest of the kids to the mountains and hills, hunting, fishing, and living outside like the old ways. It was very spiritual.”

“My Grandfather Semu Huaute, a Chumash medicine man and who I’m named after” – Semu

As Medicine Man, Semu’s grandfather provided alternative medicine for those who were dealing with physical or mental ailments that didn’t require a trip to the hospital. He also led spiritual ceremonies and sweat lodges.

“When you go to a sweat, you’re supposed to sweat the bad out of your body and pray to the Great Spirit in the sweat lodge. We’d run out after to go jump in the river because we were so overheated.”

Semu danced, drummed, sang and attended powwows. During powwow birthdays, the family celebrating a birthday would give out presents to the rest of the band or camp, the opposite of traditional birthday parties most of us are familiar with.

Even though Semu and his family eventually left the reservation around the time he was in middle school, they did not stop participating in Chumash traditions.

Home Life Growing Up: Japanese and Chumash Worlds Collide

“My mom is on the far right standing next to my older sister” – Semu

Semu’s father was a strict military man who taught Semu and his sister to respect their elders and not to talk back, helping lead them down the right path. He worked for the school district and held Semu and his sister to high standards of studying and participating in their cultural heritages.

After moving off the reservation, the family still participated in powwows, including The Stanford University Powwow that is held every year. Just to participate in Powwow dances, Semu would have to spend three hours, twice a week, practicing dances after school. Semu’s father also made traditional Native American turquoise jewelry to wear and sell at these events.

In addition to teaching his children his Native American heritage, Semu’s father also devoted time to raising Semu and his sister with his wife’s Japanese culture.

Since his father spoke fluent Japanese and his mother was Japanese, they only spoke Japanese in the house. Semu and his sister weren’t allowed to speak English at home.

Semu remembers being “forced” to study Japanese reading and writing and feeling bitter about it at the time. Now, however, he realizes what an advantage it is to know a second language and is grateful for the work he did to learn Japanese and speak it fluently to this day.

Semu’s father also wouldn’t allow them to participate in sports, so instead Semu studied Aikido, a Japanese martial art that empowers one to overcome their ego to prevent violence when possible. At one point, he did sign up for wrestling with the sneaky help of his mother. But, once his dad found out, he had to quit.

“That’s me with the Buffalo skull shield” -Semu

“He wasn’t trying to be cruel. He just wanted us to be more traditional,” Semu reflected.

The family celebrated traditional Japanese holidays like Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day) and Tango no Sekku (Boys’ Day) to remind them of the old ways. They also participated in Obon Festival, which honors deceased ancestors, much like the Mexican holiday El Día de Los Muertos.

During middle school, Semu had long hair, something that signifies strength to Native Americans. He said this and growing up with a name like Semu One Bear brought him the wrong kind of attention and he would get teased and end up in fights.

Semu remembers experiencing discrimination in those days.

“It was different back then. It wasn’t cool in the 70s, 80s or 90s to be Native American. You were still considered a lower-class person then… Native Americans had a bag stigma. My dad dressed Native American—with the hat, shirt with a choker. Once, we were at a store near Red Wind and a guy called my dad a [racial slur]. My dad got upset and went over to educate him.”

While he endured bullying and, at times, discrimination, today, Semu has nothing but gratitude for the way his mother and father raised him and the respect that they instilled in him.

“I’m very connected to the Native American way of life…Every weekend, I go to nature to go hiking or camping. The love of nature and the spirituality surrounding it has followed me everywhere.”

Respect: A Way of Life into the Workplace and Beyond

While Semu no longer dances or sings, his sister and niece both dance in the Japanese Obon Festival each year, and he attends to watch them. His sister has also gotten in the habit of attending The Stanford University Powwow again, just as he and his family did when they were younger. He wants to start going back as well to support the local artisans who are doing just as he and his family used to do.

Today, Semu attributes his way of life and outlook on life to the influence of Japanese and Native American traditions during his upbringing.

“I’m very liberal in a lot of ways, I think, as far as preserving the earth. I call it Mother Earth; it is my Mother Earth. I care for the environment. I spend a lot of time outdoors. I’m conscious of recycling, making sure not to litter.”

He also believes that respect and the diverse cultural influences empowered him to be the strong leader he is today at BBB.

“I learned respect the most. In our cultures, it is all about respect. So much is based on respect. I learned respect and I carry it over to everybody. I treat a first day Cleaning Ambassador with the same respect I treat Derreck [Hughes, BBB Vice President of Operations].”

Semu also made a special point to mention that his respect extends heavily to the LGBTQIA+ Community, a community with a strong presence in the region he oversees. He intentionally works to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone working in his region.

“That one word—Respect…I use that same respect any time I deal with anyone in the workplace…I was one of the first to ask for personal pronouns and the people I asked were so happy that I asked…My childhood taught me to never judge somebody by their culture and it is important in my role to keep learning about [gender identification and pronouns] because it is all about respect.”

His connectedness to nature also influences his placemaking work, something BBB implements in many of our programs throughout California.

“I always think of the consequences of projects. The first thing I look at when I look at designer plans is the natural aspect. What are we going to do to make sure we keep the native plants and native wildlife here? How do we make something nice for everybody to enjoy, but keep in mind the river has been here long before us and will be here long after we are gone?”

Semu has worked for BBB since 2009. He began, as many of our upper management do, as an Ambassador before working his way up to Operations Manager with San Jose, Groundwerx. His drive and determined work ethic led him to being promoted to Project Manager, then Regional Director and, ultimately, Regional Vice President (RVP), his current role. As RVP, Semu oversees operations for 20 programs throughout Northern California, ensuring they all run smoothly and efficiently to BBB standards.

We are honored to have Semu in our ranks and grateful to be able to share his story. We join the country in celebrating Semu and Native American Heritage Month.

If you are interested in learning more about Chumash culture and the Tribe today, you can visit their website. There is also a lot of history that exists surrounding Semu’s grandfather Semu Huaute, as he traveled the country and world extensively sharing Chumash history and traditions. This can be found by googling his name.

Downtown Sioux Falls Holiday Lights

This article has been copied from KeloLand.com , to see the original article, including some great photos of our Ambassadors, click here.

Brian and Winston light up Phillips Ave.

By: Jacob Newton

Posted: Nov. 15, 2023

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two men, one yellow ladder, one little red pickup and totes packed with holiday lights. This is the scene as Brian Gochal and Winston Flowers, a pair of Downtown Sioux Falls Ambassadors, work their way up and down Phillips Avenue, working to transform the street for the holiday season.

Gochal and Flowers are both in this role for the first time, and Flowers says the directive of ‘go put up some Christmas lights’ is a bit bigger of a job than the pair had expected.

The two have been out in the streets off and on for the past few weeks, stringing up lights. On Wednesday the two were enjoying the weather, a balmy 60°F. “Two weeks ago it was freezing,” remarked Gochal.

Though they’ve been working on décor for the better part of a month, they’ve been focused on lights on Phillips for the past two days.

Despite the limited man-power, the pair are working quickly. They have a technical deadline of The Parade of Lights on Nov. 24, though Gochal expects they’ll be done well before that.

Overall, Winston says the two have 25 trees and 74 light poles to decorate with a mix of lights and garlands.

One side-effect of this work? The two have been in the Christmas spirit since about Halloween, they say.

Posted on Friday November 3, 2023 by

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The Changing Environments and Responsibilities of Ambassadors

Aaron Perri, Vice President of Strategic Growth

John Koch, Central Division Vice President

The world of urban place management is constantly changing, and our industry relies on evolution and collaboration to succeed. Every year, we look forward to the International Downtown Association’s (IDA) Annual Meeting to come together with our peers and work toward creating better public spaces.

The 69th Annual IDA Conference took place in early October, where many members of our Block by Block (BBB) management team attended, led sessions and connected with customers, potential customers and our many friends in the field.

John Koch, Central Division Vice President, and Aaron Perri, Vice President of Strategic Growth, led sessions focused on Ambassador operations. John presented on “The Changing Environment of the Ambassador,” and Aaron joined leaders from Visit Knoxville and Nashville Downtown Partnership (NDP) to panel “The Evolution of Ambassador Programs Since the Pandemic.”

 

The Changing Environment of the Ambassador

A DVI Ambassador smiles in front of a dinosaur skeleton during a sponsored trip to the Museum of Science and History.

In the session titled “The Changing Environment of the Ambassador,” John discussed factors that influence the daily work of Ambassadors like wages, technology, mechanical equipment and other environmental elements.

John highlighted incentives BBB utilizes to attract and retain Ambassadors. He presented the Three “M’s” of Incentivizing Ambassadors: Motivational, Meaningful and Monetary Incentives.

Motivational incentives help Ambassadors feel the importance of their work as a vital resource to their community. According to John, these incentives can include “making Ambassadors part of the problem-solving process, including them in strategy conversations and inviting them to district events with the customer.”

Downtown Vision Inc. (DVI) is one of our operations that regularly uses motivational incentives. DVI provides tickets and allows time for the Ambassador Team to experience tourist destinations for fun, team-bonding experiences that help make them experts on what to recommend to visitors who come to the district. Recently, the team went to the Museum of Science and History where they explored a local attraction they may later recommend to a visitor while bonding as a team.

DVI Ambassadors line up for their monthly community-sponsored lunch.

Continuing to make Ambassadors feel valued, BBB believes in providing meaningful incentives, like goody bags from district businesses, food truck lunches, or even gift cards for team members’ Thanksgiving dinners. Monthly, DVI community partners provide lunch or dinner to Ambassadors to show them that the community appreciates them and their work. Most recently, in mid-October, lunch was provided by First Baptist Church as the Team celebrated birthdays and Ambassador of the month.

Finally, of course, there are the monetary incentives. Beyond traditional wages or bonuses, through community partnerships in select areas, BBB has been able to provide unique benefits for our teams, like annual bus passes or the first and last month’s rent for an Ambassador living in the areas we serve.

Ensuring your team is happy is essential to retaining high-value employees. By providing incentives like these, Ambassadors feel valued and appreciated. An employee who feels valued and appreciated is an employee who is likely to stay.

 

Evolution of Ambassador Programs Since the Pandemic

Derreck Hughes, Vice President of Operations, moderated Aaron’s session on the changes in service operations since the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. As the pandemic changed the local landscape of districts, new ideas were necessary to keep districts not just afloat but also thriving when there were noticeably fewer workers and tourists in the district.

K-Town Connect Ambassador Chase with members of the local community.

During the session, Derreck discussed sourcing new sponsors, unique partnerships and collaborators to expand and deploy street-level services. This is a concept we have seen activated in  Knoxville and Nashville, providing funds needed to implement BBB-operated Ambassador Programs to enhance public perceptions that encourage users to return to the districts.

Downtown Knoxville, K-Town Connect

Kim Bumpas, Visit Knoxville President, was essential to establishing the K-Town Connect Program. This program was created with the goal of enhancing Downtown Knoxville’s visitor and tourist experience while making it the place to host conventions. She was able to not only secure financing from the Convention and Visitors Bureau but also from both the City and County to fully fund the program.

The K-Town Connect Ambassador Program launched in May 2022, providing highly visible hospitality and quality of life services in Downtown Knoxville. After a year of successful service delivery, further interest was garnered, and the University of Tennessee (UT) signed on as a sponsoring agent. This additional sponsorship expanded K-Town Connect onto Cumberland Avenue, a main commercial thoroughfare on UT’s campus.

Nashville Downtown Partnership

Tom Turner, NDP President, introduced two ways his organization sought expanded funding for Clean and Safe Services in Downtown Nashville – one of the Nation’s fastest-growing cities.

NDP uses the Business Development Fund (BDF) which applies a 0.25% sales tax on certain goods and services sold within the downtown central business district. The BDF funds initiatives that enhance cleaning and public safety in the district. Since its launch, the BDF tax has enabled NDP to expand Clean and Safe Services and fund special security and traffic management detail within the downtown.

Through a collaborative sponsoring effort with the Music City Center, NDP has further expanded Clean and Safe Services to Lower Broadway and areas immediately adjacent to the convention center, locations that have seen a rapid influx of new development.

Innovative efforts like these can increase a district’s presence while also deepening a connection with and increasing relevance within the heart of the community.

Block by Block

An SF Travel Ambassador takes a photo for a couple.

For BBB, diversifying funding partners and expanding services into other realms outside of traditional place management boundaries will be key to maintaining vibrant, clean and safe streets into the future. BBB deploys a variety of programs across the country, including the expansion of Ambassador services to public sectors like parks and transit systems. We’ve also seen an increased interest in city-wide programs like those we operate in Louisville and San Francisco where services are not exclusive to one specific district boundary.

“Ambassadors are being utilized in other city segments outside of traditional downtowns,” Aaron said. “Parks and recreation agencies, public transit systems, visitors’ bureaus and even college campuses are all finding new ways to deploy Ambassador Programs.”

With more than 30 years of providing unique Ambassador programs for customers across the country, BBB has the experience and knowledge it takes to create one-of-a-kind, tailor-made service deployment programs that meet and exceed the changing needs of our cities.

We’ve seen a trend in many epicenters across the country where their needs have drastically changed over the last three years. As such, our Ambassador Programs have adapted.

For organizations like San Francisco (SF) Travel, which focuses on maximizing tourism and user experience in the city, recovering after COVID meant emphasizing hospitality. BBB launched the SF Travel Welcome Ambassador Program in the fall of 2021.

Welcome Ambassadors are experts on all things San Francisco. They’ve been known to answer questions in a variety of languages for non-English speaking tourists, snap photos of families from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf and even show the way to destinations by hopping on trolleys with direction-seeking tourists for that exceptional hospitality experience.

We often receive praise from tourists about their great experiences with our SF Travel team, like this praise from Shivangi P:

“Ambassador Emily at Ghirardelli Square not only went out of her way to drop us off at the cable car station, but she also went above and beyond to give us recommendations for other interesting places to visit during the rest of our stay in SF. I wanted to appreciate her for her help and thank you for setting up posts throughout the city to help us tourists!”

A Greenway Ambassador operates the Rose Kennedy Greenway Carousel.

BBB also services parks and recreation agencies, like the Rose Kennedy Greenway Park in Boston, MA. Greenway Ambassadors provide traditional cleaning, landscaping and snow removal services, but they also staff the park’s unique Trillium Beer Garden and Carousel amenities. Who knew operating a carousel could be an Ambassador job?

Our Ambassador services are flexible and cater to meet program demands, even as they change over time. Another non-traditional partnership that has expanded the realm of Ambassador programming is our partnership with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which began in 2017.

MBTA Transit Ambassadors are stationed throughout the transit system to help travelers with directions, ticket purchasing and real-time travel information. These friendly team members also help operations during special events, system outages and service disruptions, ensuring the best possible service to MBTA customers during what can be stressful situations.

BBB is excited for the future of Ambassadors services as it continues to evolve and expand into new and unchartered territory. If you think expanded Ambassador services could benefit you or your stakeholders, please contact Aaron today! (aperri@blockbyblock.com)

Q&A: What Exactly Does the Providence Downtown Improvement District Do?

In 2005, the Providence Downtown Improvement District (DID) was formed to help improve the city’s quality of life. The nonprofit organization dedicates its time to cleaning, landscaping and patrolling downtown to create a welcoming and safer environment.

Ambassadors in Downtown Providence pushing Mega Brutes.

Recently, the DID’s efforts were recognized when they received a grant to aid with future projects. Robert Russell, the Executive Director, discusses the DID’s plans to further serve residents, locals and tourists of the area.

How did the DID start?

Two yellow-shirt Ambassadors from Downtown Providence Rhode Island.

 

What is the DID’s mission?

The DID’s mission is to continuously enhance the quality of life in Downtown Providence.

Downtown Lexington Partnership State of Downtown

Our Block by Block Ambassadors are an integral part of the Downtown Lexington Partnership. During their 2023 State of Downtown, one of our most beloved Ambassadors, David Warren, was featured discussing what the Ambassador Program does for Downtown Lexington. You can check out what all he has to say in the video below, or jump to 1:50 to see where his feature begins.

Posted on Tuesday September 26, 2023 by Insider Look

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Bay Area Support Provides a World of Difference

Block by Block (BBB) prides itself on being a leader in the industry, serving more downtown districts and public spaces than any other competitor in the field. Part of what sets us apart is our dedication to the people we hire and the services we provide for our customers. This dedication can be seen in two individuals and the positions we have created specifically for our California Bay Area customers: Zori Nevarez as Regional Recruitment Coordinator and Bob Martins as Regional Maintenance Mechanic.

Zori and Bob are both exceptional individuals in their own rights, since even before they came to where they are now at BBB. In these roles, they provide customers with the best possible service entirely unique to BBB.

Zori Nevarez, Regional Recruitment Coordinator – A Passion for People

At her previous company, Zori was a regional manager for a retail financial company where she recruited and trained people for more than 20 years. Tired of the stress of finance and retail, she found her home here at BBB where she has been successfully recruiting and training Ambassadors for two years as Regional Recruitment Coordinator.

There are two parts to Zori’s position: recruiting and training. As far as recruiting goes, managers from various accounts will come to her with an opening. From there, she takes over posting the position on hiring sites and conducting initial interviews via Zoom or phone calls. She forwards suitable candidates back to the managers to interview and make their final choice. Once someone has been hired, she takes over again to do full-cycle onboarding and train the individuals on BBB standards and best practices for their work out in the field.

After employees have been hired, then comes the training. Every other week, Zori hosts a two-day, new-hire training for new employees from 15 accounts in the Bay Area in one central location in Union Square. Each training typically has an average of seven employees from all over the Bay Area but can have as many as 15-20 at maximum.

Training consists of videos, open dialogue and discussions about personal experiences. Zori will discuss a wide range of topics that not only include the work specific to each type of Ambassador or job title, but also important sensitive responsibilities like how to de-escalate a situation, interact with the street population and handle individuals experiencing a mental health episode.

Zori said there are benefits to having the training with Ambassadors from multiple accounts because they “can talk about the different areas and how visitors or residents affect each area and how to handle them.”

Operations Supervisor Freddie “Raven” Anderson with Union Square, San Francisco works closely with Zori as her training takes place in the same building where his account operates.

“Sending our incoming Ambassador staff upstairs to Zori for initial training is a huge advantage,” Raven said. “Often, trying to conduct in-house training during daily operations can be confusing to a new hire and there are often time constraints or distractions that causes a new employee to get less attention than what they get with Zori.”

Zori’s position is unique to BBB in that she takes the time to ensure that when someone first starts with BBB, they are trained for more than just their basic job responsibilities. Trainees not only receive the tools to do their job successfully, but they also learn about how to help those struggling with mental health issues, show visitors hospitality and more.

“When a new hire comes back to us from Zori’s training, they are up to speed on operational procedures and BBB protocols, which saves us a considerable amount of time and allows a smoother transition during the hands-on training we can provide in the field,” Raven said.

Zori’s attention to the new employees doesn’t stop after training, however. She follows up with each person’s manager to discuss employee strengths and potential weaknesses that need to be addressed in the field. She will even message the employee directly to wish them a happy first day or remind them of upcoming meetings.

When asked what she enjoys most about her job, Zori said: “I love it all; I truly love my job. So, I can’t say I have one thing.” She said that she is particularly proud that BBB gives second chance opportunities to individuals who may be facing obstacles preventing them from establishing steady work. She has even hired individuals who were living in their cars to help them get back on their feet.

“I love helping people be able to feed their families and see them successful in the various accounts,” Zori said. “I’ve seen Ambassadors I’ve hired become Team Leads, so helping them grow with the company makes me very proud.”

Bob Martins, Regional Maintenance Mechanic — “Mr. Fix It”

Bob grew up tinkering on cars with his father in the garage of their home in the 70s and 80s. He says cars were made differently back then. You could open the hood and work on them, take them apart, and put them back together. His dad was an IBM machinist by day but made working on cars the “fun stuff.”

Bob started working with a company that operated in the San Jose Downtown Association before BBB took over the account. He would watch maintenance technicians that the account manager hired to fix equipment as they made their repairs. It wasn’t long before he realized he could easily make the same repairs. After mentioning it to his boss, he became “Mr. Fix It.” He started changing the oil in the equipment, making minor repairs and ultimately repairing pressure washing vehicles. Bob worked with San Jose Groundwerx for 15 years, the first five with a company that would later be bought by BBB and the remainder with BBB.

The Regional Maintenance Mechanic position Bob now holds is a new position that BBB determined would be an asset to Bay Area accounts. From his knowledge growing up tinkering and the time he spent learning about and repairing equipment in San Jose, Bob was the perfect candidate to travel from account to account making repairs in the Bay. Each evening, Bob determines where he needs to go the next day. He takes off from his home base in Lathrop around 6 – 7 a.m. to make the drive to whatever account needs his maintenance skills.

Bob also manages BBB’s Bay Area Storage Facility with extra fleet equipment in case an account has a major breakdown or needs to borrow a piece of equipment for any reason. The facility houses extra All-Terrain Litter Vehicles (ATLVs), pressure washer trucks, a pickup truck and more. This equipment is loaned out, free of charge, to accounts that need it.

Bob’s position and the fleet storage facility were investments BBB made to bolster our regional support and ensure a quick repair time to keep Ambassadors out and about doing what they do best.

The purpose of this new position, which Bob began in March, is to keep account equipment working, reduce the amount of down time between breakdowns and save BBB and our customers money on what otherwise would be outsourced labor repairs. There are 16 BBB accounts in the Bay Area, and Bob performs repairs for all that have mechanized equipment — which is most of them. Account managers will call or text Bob when something goes down, and he will get them on his next available schedule to drive out and make the repairs.

He is also quick to respond to repair requests. “If you call me today, nine times out of ten, I will be there tomorrow,” he said.

“Bob is fantastic,” said Raven. When Bob worked maintenance for Groundwerx, Raven said he or his team members would drive from San Francisco to San Jose, about a 30-minute drive, just to have Bob fix equipment. Raven has also learned a lot from Bob over the years, as Bob has taken the time to show him how to make minor repairs like replace water pumps, hoses, unloaders and other parts on their equipment.

“Having regional maintenance support saves us travel time, labor repair costs, parts cost and gets us back in service faster than waiting on a shop or outside service provider,” Raven added.

Despite driving every day, Bob doesn’t think he will ever get burned out. Listening to comedy podcasts, seeing the scenery and what’s off the side of the road keeps him entertained through the long driving hours. He enjoys the freedom and trust he has from his boss Semu One Bear, Pacific West Regional Vice President. Working for Semu again, whom he worked with in San Jose years ago, is another highlight.

“I hope this lasts until I can retire,” Bob said. “I want this program to succeed. Maybe in the future if this succeeds up here and in Southern California, maybe we can implement similar programs across the country and find good people to do what I do.”

“And, maybe then I can run that from a computer and get off the road,” he added, laughing.

Posted on Wednesday August 16, 2023 by

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He’s been a Milwaukee ambassador for years. Now, he serves the unhoused with a ‘heart of gold.’

By: Nathanial Rosenberg

First Posted on: August 14, 2023 in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When Brian Johnson got a call that a woman was screaming and crying on the bridge near West McKinley Avenue, he sprang into action.

Johnson called his supervisor and police and then hustled over to the scene, arriving just in time to see the woman leaning over the railing, on the verge of attempting suicide.

“At that moment, I didn’t think about that I couldn’t swim, I thought about: That’s a life right there,” Johnson said. “Somebody needs help.”

Johnson began talking to the woman, urging her to back away from the edge and pray with him. She refused his appeals, asking him to tell her mother and children she loved them. Then she began to lean over the railing. Johnson lunged forward and grabbed her, pulling her back and talking with her until assistance arrived.

DTSF Ambassadors keep downtown clean and safe

Original article by: Gracie Terrall, Keloland News First

If you’re wondering who the people in bright red shirts cleaning up garbage downtown are, they’re the new Downtown Sioux Falls Ambassadors and their job is to keep the area clean and safe for everyone.

Since 2021, Martin Dill was the sole ambassador and took care of the downtown upkeep by himself. Recently, DTSF hired six more people to serve as ambassadors of downtown and help with cleanup and safety.

“You’ll be going along cleaning up and you can kind of tell when people are looking a little lost, they’re staring at the maps or their phones and you go up to them like, ‘Hi, can I help you folks with something?’ And nine times out of ten they are looking for something and we chat them up a little bit,” Dill said.

The ambassadors clean sidewalks, recommend restaurants to newcomers, report suspicious activity, help people in need of assistance and handle the trash and recycling bins.

“People have commented mostly about the cleanliness,” Dill said. “I’ve had a lot of people comment that they’ve seen the staff. They say, ‘We’ve seen you guys all over the place and it looks really clean. There’s no trash or cigarette butts anywhere.’ That’s fantastic, that means we’re doing our job.”

With the additional staff, they are able to reach more areas of downtown than before. They focus on Phillips Avenue and East 8th Street every day and clean adjacent streets like Main and Dakota a few times a week.

Dravyn Alarconsides started working as an ambassador last week and he’s already been interacting with business owners and customers.

“I picked up trash and learned how to sweep up the things in the gutter, pick up cigarette butts and say hello to business owners here in town,” Alarconsides said. “We have business cards that we actually give people to let them know that we’re down here trying to make the downtown area safer for individuals to promote people wanting to have businesses down here.”

Apart from keeping the downtown sidewalks clean, safety is a huge part of an ambassador’s role. They do patrols on bicycles throughout downtown from Falls Park to the river walk and nearby bike trails four times a day. The ambassadors also assist the police and call in suspicious activity.

Alarconsides said he had to call the non-emergency police number Wednesday morning to request help with an unhoused man threatening people. Alarconsides said the situation was handled swiftly.

Sometimes, Dill found that just talking and having a conversation with unhoused people can help them if they’re having a bad day. He said ambassadors help give unhoused people rides to Bishop Dudley Hospitality House or The Link, a community detox center.

“With the unhoused population, just getting an opportunity to chat with people, see how their day is going,” Dill said. “Every once in a while, if someone is having a really bad day, they just appreciate the fact that somebody talked to them about it. It’s what we’re here for.”

According to Tenley Schwartz, the marketing director for DTSF, funding for the ambassador expansion came from the Business Improvement District (BID). These are funds that all property owners in the geographical area of downtown pay to maintain property value and safety. DTSF recently updated the BID structure, which hadn’t been updated in over 30 years, after seeing the positive outcome of Dill’s work as a sole ambassador to allow DTSF to hire more ambassadors.

Schwartz said the program will likely continue into the far future now that they have the funding and are hearing the feedback from downtown businesses and customers.

“The plan is to keep improving the process, keep training these folks to do a really great job when they’re representing our city,” Schwartz said. “We’d like to see this continue in perpetuity to make sure that downtown stays a place that feels welcoming.”

Posted on Friday June 30, 2023 by Insider Look

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Safety Day 2023

Team of Block by Block Ambassadors in Louisville, KY at The Paddock Shops posing for a photo.

Our Louisville Paddock Shops Ambassador Team with 1-2 Years Injury Free!

While safety is our No. 1 priority every day, Block by Block’s (BBB) official Safety Day comes only once a year. This is a day where BBB Teams come together for food, fun and important discussions about safety.

BBB’s Stop. Think. Act. Program began in 2014 as a commitment to regularly teach and remind our Ambassadors and Teams of the importance of our safety best practices.

Rubber bracelets with the motto “Stop. Think. Act.” denote the safety status of each account BBB contracts with and are a part of the daily uniform for all Ambassadors in the field. When we first open in a new location, each member of the Ambassador Team receives a black bracelet that serves as a daily reminder to Stop, Think and Act safely. Once an account has reached 12 months with no injuries, they receive yellow bracelets. When an account reaches 24 months with no injuries, they are upgraded again to green bracelets.

BBB and our teams across the country celebrated Safety Day on June 30. Operation Managers (OMs) met with their teams to discuss why safety is important and went over previous incidents that have occurred. The teams discussed how those incidents could have been avoided, as they bonded with the team over a meal provided by BBB. Team Leaders also facilitated discussions about close calls or would-be incidents that were narrowly avoided or intentionally prevented. They discussed what was done correctly and what could have been done better.

Ambassadors also tested their safety knowledge with quizzes, trivia and even jeopardy! Each account leader was responsible for making the day fun, engaging and educational. Teams across the country showcased their celebrations on our Block by Block Ambassador Facebook page.

At the time of BBB Safety Day 2023, 34 accounts were injury free for one to two years, and 38 accounts were injury free for over two years. That’s more than half of BBB accounts that are injury free for one year or more!

We want to highlight some of those accounts with outstanding injury prevention! Downtown Fargo Business Improvement District (BID) is one of these accounts.

“We are always talking about safety, during shift briefings and throughout the day.” Victor Heitkamp, Fargo BID OM, said. “We talk about items that are relevant for any giving day.”

Lately, Victor has been discussing heat safety at his account. “We have seen some extreme heat for our area, and I am constantly reminding teammates to stay hydrated, take breaks when they need and keep an eye out for one another,” he said.

“I feel we are fortunate because we have such a small crew of Ambassadors that it’s easy to look after one another,” Victor added. “I also give BBB a huge amount of credit. The efforts they take on safety and safety training are like no other! I truly feel that corporate cares about its people working across the country through the 140+ programs. There is great uniformity and expectation set with good direction that comes from the top.”

Another safety-focused account with over two years without injury is the University of Akron, Ohio. OM Jon Roethlisberger said he attributes their success to his belief that “safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.”

We applaud these accounts for their success and encourage those with less than a year to continue keeping safety at the forefront of their daily activities!

2+ Years Injury Free

Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, NY; Bethlehem EDC, PA; Castro/Upper Market CBD, CA; Charlotte Center City Partners, SC; City Center Partnership, SC; City of Albuquerque, NM; City of Beverly Hills, CA; City of Coral Gables, FL; City of Livermore, CA; Diamond City Partnership, PA; Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, CA; Downtown Columbia, SC; Downtown Dayton Partnership, OH; Downtown Fargo BID, ND; Downtown Jackson Partnership, MS; Downtown Lexington Partnership, KY; Golden Triangle BID, DC; Hillsborough Street CSC, NC; Hollywood CRA, FL; Japantown CBD, CA; Kailua Village BID, HI; Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, MI; Lincoln Road BID, FL; Memphis Medical District, TN; Montague Street BID, NY; Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID, NY; Playhouse Village Association, CA; Providence DID, RI; Rosslyn BID, VA; Sports Complex SSD, PA; Stamford Downtown SSD, CT; Temescal Telegraph BID, CA; Town Center at Levis Commons, OH; University of Akron, OH; Uptown Dallas, Inc., TX

1-2 Years Injury Free

Atlantic Avenue Bid, NY; Augusta Downtown Initiative, GA; Boulder Downtown Partnership, CO; City of Louisville, KY; City of Myrtle Beach, FL; Colfax Avenue BID, CO; Corpus Christi DMD, TX; Downtown Chico BA, CA; Downtown Development District, LA; Downtown Frederick Partnership, MD; Downtown Mobile DMC,AL; Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc., OK; Downtown Toledo BID, OH; Downtown Tulsa Partnership, OK; Downtown Ventura Partners, CA; Greater Easton DP, PA; Miami Downtown, FL; Mill Avenue District, AZ; Myrtle Ave. Business District Association, NY; Oakland BID, CA; Old Pasadena MD, CA; Paddock Shops, KY; Peavey Plaza MDID, MN; Rose Kennedy Greenway Park, MA; San Jose DA, CA; Short North Alliance, OH; St. Paul Downtown Alliance, MN; Sunset Park BID, NY; The East Cut CBD, CA; The Ohio State University, OH; University District SID, OH; University of Minnesota, MN; Visit Knoxville TN, TN; Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, MD

Posted on Thursday June 22, 2023 by Growing Great Leaders

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Internal Promotions Recognized

Block by Block (BBB) is a big believer in our people. We pride ourselves on promoting from within when we have the opportunity. One way that we do this is by first notifying all staff of Internal Job Postings prior to sharing the job on external sites.

Another way we give our employees the opportunity to move up is through our Leadership Identification Program (LID). LID gives our Ambassadors and other staff the opportunity to figuratively “raise their hand” to notify BBB that they want to stand out, apply themselves, and move up through BBB.

Many of the leaders within BBB have been with us for decades, moving up through the ranks over the years. In fact, President Blair McBride began working as a Cleaning Ambassador with BBB in 1994.

We are proud to announce the following recent promotions from within.

Adam Boulware Block by Block Operations Supervisor, Columbia SC

Adam has been with BBB for 5 years. He began his BBB journey as a Safety Ambassador, was then promoted to Team Lead and has now been promoted to Operations Supervisor for City Center Partnership in Columbia, SC. Adam first came to BBB because “the [Ambassador] position appealed to me because it was something to do outside. Having the ability to enjoy being outside and get paid to help people was intriguing.” When he isn’t working, Adam enjoys playing the drums and hanging out with his kids. What’s next for Adam? He’s got his sights set on being an Operations Manager one day. Keep up the great work, Adam!

Nick Haines Block by Block Regional Vice President of the South

Nicholas was hired as a General Manager (GM) four years ago and was recently promoted to Regional Vice President (RVP), overseeing BBB accounts throughout the Southern United States. He came to BBB in search of a better work-life balance and he says he found it. “There’s pressure and accountability in our world, but we are empowered to solve problems. I love that,” he said. Nicholas’s favorite part about being a GM was getting to work with the Ambassadors, saying, “We have safe, productive fun. Work is play.” He looks forward to helping managers develop professional to reach their goals in his new role as RVP. Outside of work Nicholas loves to spend time with his wife and their three children. Congratulations, Nicholas!

Alicia Moran Block by Block Operations Manager Rosslyn, VA

Alicia started at BBB as a Cleaning Ambassador before being promoted to Team Lead. She is now the Operations Manager for Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) in Arlington, VA. She said that she has learned a lot over the last seven years and that “working at Block by Block changed [her] life.” As Team Lead she enjoyed teaching Ambassadors techniques to become better Ambassadors. In her new position, she looks forward to helping create a cleaner BID, more productive team, and improving the team in ways she couldn’t before. In her personal time, Alicia likes to go for walks and take photos in parks. We can’t wait to see what you accomplish in your new role, Alicia!

Kori Parvin Finance and Training Manager Block by Block

Kori is our newest BBB employee in this list, but she has brought a go-getter spirit with her, diving headfirst into working with RVPs across the country and learning all aspects of the financial side of BBB. She joined the corporate team in July of 2020 as the Financial Project Manager and has recently been promoted to Finance and Training Manager this year. She came to BBB after interviewing at multiple companies and believing we were the best fit and a “new challenge” for her to take on. In her new position, Kori looks forward to providing more direct support to field staff and expanding her role in training. In her free time, Kori likes to hike and arrange flowers. Congratulations on the promotion, Kori!

Posted on Friday June 9, 2023 by Insider Look

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South Bend Leader Joins Block by Block

Aaron Perri smiles in front of a cityscape.

BBB welcomes Aaron Perri as Vice President of Strategic Growth.

As Block by Block (BBB) looks towards the future of operations, Aaron Perri has been hired as Vice President of Strategic Growth to further BBB’s vision for services throughout the country.

In his new position, Aaron will not only be pursuing new markets to identify potential BBB accounts, but he will also be working to find ways to apply the BBB operating model to more public spaces like municipal governments, transit systems, campuses and parks agencies.

Aaron is the first of two new hires joining BBB from the field of downtown services who were customers before coming to work with us. (Chip is the second, and you can read about him here). Aaron previously held the positions of Executive Director of the City of South Bend and Executive Director of Downtown South Bend, Inc. (DTSB) in Indiana.

As Executive Director of DTSB, Aaron picked up oversight of a previously established BBB Ambassador Program. During his time working in South Bend, he grew this Ambassador Program into three other areas of the city. Working with BBB during these years, Aaron said he “came to understand the extreme values that BBB could add to communities.”

Aaron Perri stands with former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with Aaron Perri in 2017.

When Aaron announced on his LinkedIn in May that he would be stepping away from serving South Bend directly, his post was flooded with well-wishes and praise for the work he has done there. “You enthusiastically pointed out the gems and saw the possibilities [for South Bend],” one commentor wrote. Another said, “South Bend is a better place because of you. Thank you.” “Thank you so much for the vision and leadership you provided for our City,” said yet another. This single post had over one hundred comments and over four hundred reactions.

The kind words from Aaron’s friends and colleagues are truly a testament to the impact he has had on the city. It is clear Aaron is a beloved leader to the people of South Bend for the efforts he has contributed to change it from what Newsweek called a “Dying City” in 2011 to the place of economic and cultural relevance that it is today. Aaron said this is what he is most proud of in his career so far.

Aaron has played a major role in many projects to better the City of South Bend. Some of his favorites include the South Bend River Lights, a public art project that shines colorful lights across the St. Joseph River, and Howard Park, an award-winning park with playgrounds, fountains, event space and more that helped win the city the National Gold Medal Award, the highest recognition in the industry.

“I was always impressed with the way BBB was able to creatively and professionally bring solutions to the challenges we faced. Even more so, I experienced first-hand the ‘whatever it takes’ commitment from all levels of the BBB team,” Aaron reflected, “I had no clue that I’d one day be on that team, but I’m excited to be here!”

Aaron has a “passion for creating emotionally engaging places” and he “look[s] forward to helping cities across the country identify solutions to do just that!”

He is excited to meet people across the country who are making a difference in their communities, hear their stories and help resource their efforts.

Outside of work, Aaron loves all things Notre Dame football. In his free time, he likes to practice yoga, enjoy great food and wine and travel. Lucky for him, this new position will take him coast-to-coast. He will continue to live in South Bend with his wife and work remotely when he is not traveling.

Welcome to the Block, Aaron! We are proud of your achievements in South Bend and can’t wait to see everything you will accomplish with BBB!

Posted on Monday June 5, 2023 by Insider Look

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A ‘Chip’ off the Old Block by Block

Block by Block West Coast District Vice President Chip in front of San Francisco Skyline

BBB welcomes Chip as the new West Coast District Vice President.

Most people have a last name, but Chip isn’t like most people. He started going by “Chip” around his friends during his teenage years and the name just stuck. He decided to make himself officially mononymous and changed his full legal name to just ‘Chip.’

Chip is a well-known figure in the world of downtown services, a realm he feels “spoiled” to have stumbled into. He has been in downtown management in various roles for two decades after his business in a downtown district introduced him to the world. Chip is coming to Block by Block (BBB) from the Downtown Boulder Partnership in Colorado, where he served as CEO for the last four years. Prior to working with Downtown Boulder, Chip worked with the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz (DTSC), California. At other points in his career, he has worked with the California Downtown Association (CDA) and the International Downtown Association (IDA) communities.

Chip is no stranger to BBB. He brought Ambassadors to Downtown Boulder in 2020 and DTSC hired BBB the same year at his suggestion. As a BBB customer, Chip had already established many relationships with work colleagues at BBB. It was serendipitous, he says, that he came to find out about the open position for a West Coast District Vice President.

Around the same time he and his wife (who does have a last name) were thinking about moving back to California to be closer to their family, Chip ran into Derreck Hughes, BBB Vice President of Operations, at IDA’s West Coast Summit. Derreck mentioned BBB would soon be hiring someone to cover West Coast BBB accounts. After hearing this, Chip followed up and “threw his name in the hat.” The rest, as they say, is history. Chip begins his new role as West Coast District Vice President at the end of July operating out of San Francisco, CA.

For Chip, moving to California is a homecoming. Not only is he looking forward to being closer to family, but he is also excited to reunite with business associates from BBB and  downtown staff he has worked with over the years.

Chip brings a unique perspective of having run Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), worked with cities and businesses, and been “the person in the hotseat” ensuring everything gets done and done right. As a former downtown district CEO, Chip says he recognizes that the world of safety, cleaning and taking care of public infrastructure needs to change. He looks forward to creating strategic innovations and helping grow leaders as BBB leads the charge of improving downtowns across America.

Chip is enthusiastic about the challenge of infusing the renowned BBB Company Culture with the culture of each unique downtown that BBB serves. “I’m excited to get to work with people in some of the most amazing downtowns in the world all over the West Coast. I’m thrilled for this opportunity,” Chip said.

When asked what he was most proud of accomplishing during his career, Chip mentioned honorable undertakings like assisting in the creation of a Community Advisory Board that focuses on equity issues in Boulder, as well as helping with homelessness support organizations. But more than anything else, Chip feels a great sense of pride for the role he has played in the professional development of his team and those around him, especially when they move on to better opportunities for themselves, whether it is with the company he works for or outside of it. He likes to support people on their journey as they evolve and grow into better versions of themselves. Chip has seen many individuals use the role of an Ambassador as a launchpad for other adventures, both within BBB and outside of it.

Outside of work, Chip is a basketball fanatic. In his spare time, he said he likes to “eat, drink, play basketball and hangout with [his] wife.” For Chip’s fun fact, he said he once worked for the Pickle Family Circus – as a rigger, production manager and lighting designer.

BBB looks forward to Chip taking the reins of the West Coast accounts and seeing all that he will accomplish in this new role. He joins John Koch, Central Division Vice President, and Carin Cardone, East Coast Division Vice President. Congratulations, Chip! Before you know it, you’ll be a regular Chip off the old Block by Block!

Map of Block by Block Divisions in the United States

BBB accounts are separated into three divisions. Note: the divisions on this map are for visual representations only; they are not necessarily accurate to each area covered by each individual.

Posted on Friday May 19, 2023 by Insider Look

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New Partnership with LOUMED

Mid-March, Block by Block (BBB) began a partnership with Louisville Medical and Education District (LOUMED for short), a new development district in Louisville, KY. Four anchor tenants in Downtown Louisville make up this district: University of Louisville, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Norton Healthcare and University of Louisville Health.

Mayor Craig Greenberg stands beside a Louisville Medical LOUMED Block by Block Ambassador.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg with a LOUMED Ambassador

According to LOUMED Executive Director Nadareca Thibeaux, these partners want to “cultivate a cohesive medical campus by improving walkability, adding more greenspace, improving traffic flow and creating a safe and welcoming environment for all who visit, work and are educated here in [the] district.”

LOUMED is made up of 22 blocks, 250 acres and 9.6 million sq ft of occupied space. In this area of Louisville alone, more than 16,000 individuals are employed. With safety a primary concern in the district, LOUMED has hired 15 Ambassadors to cover the 22-block area. In addition to safety, these Ambassadors provide cleaning, wayfinding and hospitality services in the district.

Each of the new Ambassadors will also fulfill the following responsibilities in the district:

  • Create a visible presence that makes visitors feel welcome and safe, and ensures situations can be handled appropriately.
  • Discourage active aggressors as they report prohibited behaviors and crimes.
  • Focus on Safety Risk Aversion and Quality of Life Issues. They will treat all individuals in the district with respect while keeping the area safe for all. Ambassadors will also be able to connect individuals in-need with helpful community resources.
  • Direct, offer greetings and share historical information to visitors in the district.
  • Respond to various needs like conveying parking information, repairing a tire, carrying boxes, escorting staff or even holding doors for visitors.
  • Build community connections with business owners and stakeholders in the district.

During a press briefing in the LOUMED District on Thursday, May 18th, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg discussed the importance of these four tenants coming together to improve the area. In a post shared after the event, Greenberg said the new partnership with BBB “will enhance the experience of our public spaces for visitors, employees, students and patients!”

A Green LouMed branded Block by Block Ambassador truck.

LOUMED’s new branded vehicle

In just three months, the BBB LOUMED Ambassador Team has already begun to make an impact in the district. After the press briefing was over, a Starbucks employee next door expressed excitement after learning that the Ambassadors were going to be a permanent staple in the district, claiming they have already made her feel safer as she arrives for and leaves work.

Since their first full month of service in April until now, LOUMED Ambassadors have made 236 hospitality assists, conducted 15 safety escorts and made over 16,000 greetings. So far this May, the Ambassador Team has filled 44 trash bags of litter collected off the street. Anyone in need of a safety escort in the LOUMED district can contact 502-791-1435.

LOUMED BBB Ambassadors have not only offered hospitality services, cleaning and safety escorts, but they have also assisted in removing a known criminal from the district streets. Monday evening this week, LOUMED Ambassadors were alerted that a person with outstanding warrants had been acting erratic and violent towards multiple female employees of district businesses. The man’s image was distributed to Ambassadors during shift briefings each day. On Wednesday morning, an Ambassador Team Lead successfully located the assailant and reported his whereabouts to police, ultimately leading to the man’s pickup and arrest.

BBB is proud of these Ambassadors who assisted the local police with finding this individual. This incident is further proof that BBB Ambassadors across the country are actively making communities safer for the people who live in, work in and visit them. As LOUMED continues to beautify and improve the district with new infrastructure, parks and more, BBB Ambassadors will be there every step of the way to make the community cleaner, friendlier and safer!

A group of individuals wearing matching uniforms outside of a governmental building.

LOUMED Ambassador Team

Meet the Louisville ambassadors rejuvenating downtown area

Dressed in bright orange, they’re the eyes and ears across 90 square blocks of downtown Louisville, working to make it safer and cleaner.

Isaiah Kim-Martinez | WHAS11

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mayor Craig Greenberg has called for more ambassadors on the streets of Louisville to assist police in their patrols, to be an extra set of eyes and ears for locals and visitors alike as the Kentucky Derby approaches.

“Our presence being here helps make it safe,” Charles Coleman said.

Coleman has been a Louisville Downtown Partnership ambassador for two years. He’s one of 19 selfless men and women working around the clock across 90 square blocks of the downtown area.

“Whether it’s raining, whether it’s cold, whether it’s nighttime — you know there is always someone out there walking and keeping an eye out for you,” said James Wells, Block by Block’s general manager for Louisville operations. Block by Block contracts out the ambassadors.

Since the protests of 2020, the resurgence of downtown has been a slow climb — albeit not for a lack of effort from businesses. Several have come and gone within just a couple of years.

Wells says the ambassadors are part of the blueprint for revitalization.

“We’ve done everything within the last year, from interacting with people to helping deescalate situations to providing a friendly face, or a friendly presence around a chaotic situation,” he said.

LDP ambassadors patrol the streets from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Some travel by foot, others by bike. Many of them have maps on hand.

On Wednesday, WHAS11 followed along as they went about their daily process — which includes removing graffiti, cleaning up trash, power washing sidewalks, putting up street decorations, and of course interacting with the community at the return of Food Truck Wednesdays this season.

“We try to keep it fun and keep everyone in a good mood. They’re doing something that some people would never want to do, but they enjoy doing it,” Operations Manager Brandon Person said.

And for people like Coleman, the satisfaction comes from seeing familiar faces return to the area — not just for Derby or conventions, but for a regular Wednesday in April to take in the sights and sounds.

“Every day and week and month that goes by, more people are coming back to the downtown area,” Coleman said. “You can’t spell Louisville without spelling love.”

The LDP Ambassadors program has been around since 1996, and it’s grown. The 2020 team had 13 ambassadors on staff. Right now, they have 19.

 

W. 7th property owners get in on the perks of nearby downtown

Commercial properties in the downtown improvement district pay assessments for cleaning and safety services.

By Katie Galioto and James Walsh | Star Tribune

Donning her uniform neon windbreaker Wednesday morning, Ashley Borud pushed a cart of cleaning supplies and trash bags down St. Paul’s W. 7th Street.

She used a trash picker to grab a coffee cup lid and a cigarette butt. She scrubbed fresh graffiti off a parking meter. She stopped to ask a man sleeping on the ground outside the Holiday Inn if he was OK.

Though her route was new, the shift was as typical as any for Borud, the operations manager for St. Paul’s Street Team, which launched in 2021 with the goal of a cleaner, safer downtown. Starting last week, the team’s geographic footprint expanded to several blocks in the W. 7th neighborhood after commercial property owners petitioned the city to join the downtown improvement district.

The privately funded and operated improvement district provides special services — including Street Team patrols and a safety communications center — in exchange for annual assessments. Downtown businesses banded together to create the district to respond to needs in St. Paul’s urban core that fell outside of government purview, or that weren’t being addressed quickly and regularly.

Pat Boemer admitted he was feeling a little salty on Wednesday. The owner of Patrick McGovern’s Pub & Restaurant said he’d just paid his annual property tax bill, about $180,000.

“Don’t get me started,” he said, talking about what he considers inadequate service from the city in exchange for what he pays. “As a taxpayer, it’s really kind of pathetic. If these people were in private industry, they’d all be fired.”

But when Boemer was asked about the prospect of joining the downtown improvement district, he said he’d happily foot the extra expense — about $7,000 a year — to enhance his street’s cleanliness and public safety.

“As much as I take care of my property, and most of us do down here on 7th, it’s just nice to have them doing this,” he said. “Picking up trash, removing graffiti. If you’re going to make the city a little better, it’s worth it to me.”

Boemer opened McGovern’s 41 years ago, making him one of the corridor’s most established businesses, along with Cossetta, DeGidio’s and Mancini’s. Over the years, especially since the opening of Xcel Energy Center, the street’s profile and reputation have grown.

“People who are experiencing St. Paul, especially visitors, experience this area as downtown. They don’t have an awareness of where the line exists,” said Joe Spencer, president of the nonprofit St. Paul Downtown Alliance.

“We just want to put our best foot forward,” he added, especially since downtowns across the country have struggled to rebound from the pandemic.

State law lays out the process for creating and enlarging special service districts, which can be vetoed if a certain percentage of property owners object. Spencer said he’s confident there is enough support to expand along W. 7th.

In addition to property owner support, the change requires City Council approval. That process is likely to start in the coming weeks, with the goal of officially adding W. 7th to the district at the start of next year. A grant from the Knight Foundation is paying for services in the meantime.

The downtown improvement district board, which consists of property owners, set a $1.2 million budget for 2023. Commercial property owners pay into the fund through assessments calculated based on their building’s square footage and their street frontage.

The district contracts the Downtown Alliance to manage operations like the safety center, where a dispatcher helps coordinate communications between private security teams, police and social service agencies. With a camera-sharing program and live communication channel, officials in the center are able to see and spread real-time safety information throughout the downtown network.

“There are certain benefits to living outside the government,” Spencer said. “We coordinate with the city a lot, of course. … But we’re just a smaller organization. We can be super responsive and agile.”

Kathy Gosiger, general manager of Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub, said the business is on board to try joining the district for a year. While she’s not sure if the visibility of the green-clad Street Team will make customers and tourists feel better, Gosiger is hopeful their work will make a difference.

“You know the old saying: People don’t see clean, but they see dirty,” she said. “I think this will help.”

Borud and her team are off to a start, out and about from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. On a given shift, the Street Team could help shovel snow from a street corner, weed cracks in the sidewalk or provide an escort to a vehicle.

Continuing along her route Wednesday, Borud moved a few Spin scooters to the edge of the sidewalk and chatted with a man wondering when Cossetta opened.

As he walked away, she radioed the question to the dispatcher and called after him: “It opens at 11.”

Posted on Friday May 12, 2023 by Insider Look

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While San Francisco Sleeps, These Teams Go to Work

Each night, just as San Franciscans are finishing dinner, tucking-in children, and getting ready for their nightly routines, Block by Block (BBB) third-shift Ambassadors are showing up for work, ready to make the streets of Union Square and the surrounding blocks spic and span.

Freddie “Raven” Anderson, Operations Supervisor, and Tinea Adams, General Manager, oversee BBB Ambassador operations at San Francisco, California’s Union Square. While many of their responsibilities match those of other BBB teams throughout the country, part of their job is uniquely special to Union Square’s needs.

Like every account that BBB operates, a one-of-a-kind workplan has been created to tackle the needs specific to Union Square. A part of this plan is routine, nightly power washing. While the Union Square Alliance is approximately 26 blocks (or 1.6 miles), the actual walking distance of both sides of the streets, all block faces and alcoves in the Alliance is approximately 7.5 miles. It takes the BBB third-shift Ambassador Team about a week to power wash the entire Alliance—a distance equivalent to walking the Golden Gate Bridge about 4.5 times from one end to the other.

Map of Union Square Alliance showing 26 blocks covered.

Map of Union Square Alliance with blocks covered.

Around 8 p.m. each night, three to four individuals with pressure washers are deployed throughout Union Square. To prevent late-night noise disturbances for sleeping residents, attention is first directed toward residential areas. A driver is also sent out in an All-Terrain Litter Vacuum (ATLV) to pick up larger debris from streets and curbs. After the residential areas have been power washed, next come the dirtiest areas, with customer requests given precedence.

Working in tandem into the early hours of the morning, the team makes their way through the district covering a different route of the Alliance each evening. The result of all this effort? Residents, business owners, and tourists wake up to clean streets clear of debris as they go about their morning routines.

Raven says working at night comes with unique challenges, with the safety of BBB crews a number one priority. In addition to ensuring the night crews are wearing proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), Raven also touches base with all crew members throughout the night to know where everyone is and make sure everyone is accounted for. Typically, two Ambassadors will clean opposite sides of the same street, carrying walky-talkies and their company SMART devices in case they run into any issues or need to notify the Team Lead of a concern. Working in pairs adds a layer of safety for Ambassadors during this late-night work.

Other than safety concerns and preventing noise around residential areas, Raven and Tinea said the overnight Ambassador Teams encounter other issues day crews do not. On Friday and Saturday nights, Union Square comes alive with bar-goers and night life. They said it can be challenging to pressure wash while the sidewalks are busy with people. Cleaning the streets and curb-lines can also be difficult when cars are parked there, making it hard for the ATLV to get close enough to pick up debris. Despite these challenges, the Ambassadors accomplish their nightly power washing every evening, without fail.

Not only do the Ambassadors accomplish their tasks, but they excel at them, thanks to a 14-point Quality Control Audit System created by BBB. This system is a checklist for the quality of the cleaning completed in each section and by each Ambassador. It includes locations like curb-lines, sidewalks, tree boxes, alcoves/doorways, and other visible elements that need special attention in the Alliance. Cleaning Ambassadors are given a grade out of four, based on how clean each location is from a zero, unacceptable, to a four, outstanding. Individuals not performing to BBB standards are issued feedback and clarified expectations. If individuals repeatedly fail to meet expectations, they will be relieved of their position. This guarantees that the Alliance is getting the quality results they pay for.

Third-shift Ambassadors work an eight-hour shift with a 40-minute lunch break. Around 4:00 a.m., all Ambassadors return to the main operating station to clean the inside and outside of the vehicles used and debrief on the evening. This happens every single night, seven days a week.

Raven has been with BBB since 2016, having worked just about every position there is: cleaning, special projects, pressure washing, Team Lead and now Operations. Currently, because of his experience, Raven is covering as Team Lead during the night shifts at Union Square as they look to hire new supervisors.

Tinea came to work at BBB after working retail and being a stay-at-home mom. She wanted to work somewhere she could manage great people, something she is deeply passionate about. At BBB, Tinea has found somewhere she loves going to every day, where she can make a difference in the community and meet tourists from all over the world (while getting to work outside!).

Tinea believes the BBB Ambassador Team and SF Travel, another division of BBB in San Francisco focusing on tourism, are a family that works together to make Union Square clean and safe, keeping visitors coming back.

“When you walk through, how clean are our streets? They are very clean because we are doing a great job. It feels good to know we are making a difference. You can see the difference in the borders where we don’t work,” she said.

Raven shared similar sentiment. He feels it is amazing to be able to work in a world-renowned city with team camaraderie and where everyone knows you.

San Francisco’s Union Square is a bustling, historic part of the city with backdrops of quaint cable cars, large events, shopping and immense history, and BBB Ambassadors are there to keep it safe and clean for visitors and locals every step of the way—both night and day.

A group of people in uniforms at night posing in front of Union Square branded vehicles.

An overnight crew ready to get cleaning!

Posted on Thursday May 4, 2023 by Insider Look

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A Man in Need

This story was submitted to the Block by Block (BBB) corporate team from Operations Manager Kyle Robinson of Akron, Ohio. It represents a common encounter BBB Ambassadors can experience in the field and an effective, impactful way to respond to help the community—or even just a single person.

Cropped image of woman smiling

Ambassador Val Kramer

A Letter from Operations Manager Kyle Robinson

I just wanted to share some information I received from one of my Clean Ambassadors, Val Kramer, recently. This truly made me so proud of her and our Ambassador team! Val was not present at one of our team meetings, and I could not reach her by phone that day. The next day, she came to me to explain her absence and shared an inspiring full-circle story.

On Tuesday, March 21st, 2023, Val was returning to the Greystone building (our HQ) for a bi-weekly team meeting. As she was walking down Main St., she noticed a man sitting alone on the swings with a box of random things. She said that she greeted him with a “hello, how are you.” After he said hello, she said she felt the need to stop. So, she stopped. At first, she said he was a little distant, but she kept speaking with him and they began to break the ice. They went back and forth with small talk, and, eventually, the man—we’ll call him John—began to tell her his story.

As they spoke, John told her that he had lost his purpose in the world and that he didn’t want to live anymore. He told her that he had lost all hope and he was just done. Val quickly reassured him that he has so much to live for and asked why he felt this way. As John continued to open up, Val continued to actively listen and engage.

He gave Val a brief life history/story and once he started to talk to her, she said it was a very natural conversation. He began telling her about his past work as a welder and that he loved building tricycles and hoped to build one that could assist the elderly and disabled. John told her about a terrible motorcycle accident he was in; about how his identity was recently stolen and his accounts drained; and that he once died in a surgery and was brought back to life. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.

He opened up to Val about his faith, discussing spirituality and his feelings on how he lost his purpose, more so, his desire to live. Val recommended some books she read that he may find helpful and told him about a faith-based book she actually found downtown while working as an Ambassador. She also gave him information on Victims Assistance, CSS, and some other services offered in our area.

As she continued to talk to him, he mentioned that they had met before. Eventually, he told her that they spoke way back in 2014 and she stopped and showed him the same kindness then and he always remembered that. As the conversation ended, Val ensured he had information to local services and had a place to stay. John took the information, said he had an apartment in the area, and said he was feeling a little better. She said he never asked for anything; he just needed someone to talk to.

I just want to thank Val for such an incredible engagement and for taking the time to ensure John was heard and not only offered resources, but also offered kindness and compassion. The fact that he remembered Val for that same kindness, almost 10 years later, is a beautiful thing. I can only imagine how many people remember Val for her acts of kindness over the last 21 years that she has worked for Block by Block. This really does shine a light on how impactful the Ambassadors are in our communities every day.

Respectfully,

Kyle Robison, Operations Manager

Downtown Akron, Ohio Partnership

Posted on Thursday May 4, 2023 by Around the Block

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Around the Block with Block by Block – Episode 2

We are back with our second installment of Around the Block! This month we are covering what’s new at Block by Block with our guest emcees Regional Vice President Anna Schmoll and Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID) General Manager LaVelle Warfield!

In this video, we will be sharing the details of:

  • Our newly created Marketing Operations Storyteller position with our partners at MDID
  • Our Volunteer Day Program operated in collaboration with Louisville Downtown Partnership leading up to the Kentucky Derby
  • Our hands-on training process for Operations Managers

We hope you enjoy learning more about our forward-thinking operating model and how we are always going the extra mile to bring added value to our customers through our operations!

We will see you next time, around the block!

Missed an episode? Catch up with BBB on YouTube!

 

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Posted on Thursday May 4, 2023 by Growing Great Leaders

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From Dispatch to the World

Two former Dispatchers at St. Paul Downtown Improvement District (SPDID) have been promoted within Block by Block (BBB) as part of our Leadership Identification Program (LID). LID seeks to identify individuals within BBB who are interested in growing within our company and have good leadership skills, a “can-do” attitude, and other robust talents.

When two new leadership positions opened at SPDID, Operations Manager Ashley Borud knew just where to turn to fill those roles. Both Cheyenne Johnson and Roshawnda “Shawnda” Wallace had excelled as Dispatchers with SPDID for more than a year, and both had expressed their interest in growing at BBB. Ashley said their dedication and work ethic made them stand out as perfect candidates to advance into leadership roles within the company. Recently promoted, Shawnda is now an Operations Supervisor and Cheyenne is a Training Coordinator.

When asked what leadership qualities she saw in Cheyenne and Shawnda, Ashley responded: “Their positive attitudes, dedication to the team, punctuality, go-getter attitudes, willingness to go the extra mile, communication, and so much more!”

Ashley continued, “We hire for personality and train for success.  Every day these two showed, and continue to show, up with their vibrant personalities; no matter what the day brought. Shawnda and Cheyenne care about BBB and our mission, the Client and their desires, the field team Ambassadors, our partnerships, and the public.”

Shawnda is a “spunky, strong, go-getter” with “an outstanding personality and a heart of gold,” according to Ashley. She is passionate about working for BBB, SPDID, and her team. Shawnda regularly posts updates about her SPDID team of Ambassadors conducting maintenance and completing day-to-day operations on her Facebook page.

Recently, she shared: “We enjoy all parts of our Downtown! The good, the bad, the all-around! Our Downtown is our home away from home and we couldn’t be more proud to assist our Downtown community in any way we can! Sun’s out, fun’s out!” BBB is thrilled to advance Shawnda into a leadership position in St. Paul where she can continue sharing her passion with the community.

Shawnda’s growth within BBB is a testament to our mission of Growing Great Leaders from within. However, she isn’t the only great leader we’ve got growing around here!

Cheyenne is now a Training Coordinator for both SPDID and Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District accounts. She, like Shawnda, began with BBB as a Dispatcher for SPDID.

“Her professional demeanor, experience, knowledge, expertise and outright amazing personality are just a few key details that led her to this new role,” said Ashley.

Cheyenne is an essential team member who continues to make a positive impact on our teams and those who live, work, and play in our Downtown districts. We are excited to have her in this new position at BBB!

Are you an Ambassador looking to grow within BBB like Cheyenne and Shawnda? We asked Ashley about the tips she would offer Ambassadors looking to take on more leadership responsibilities. She said the following were essential to success:

  • Let your managers know your goals
  • Give it your all, always, and not just for opportunities
  • Invest in yourself
  • Work hard, but also give yourself a lot of grace

Congratulations to our newly promoted BBB team members! We are so happy to have you as a part of what makes Block by Block special, unique, and one-of-a-kind!

Southside Ambassador program appoints new operations manager

By: Sarah Stevens | The Brown and White

The Southside Ambassador program appointed a new operations manager, Sandra Zajacek. She joins a team of four ambassadors focused on preserving the quality of life in the Southside community.

Zajacek said the program’s goal is not to make large changes, but instead focus on maintaining the city’s art and culture.

She said the program is addressing environmental issues like sweeping streets and recycling cigarette butts before they contaminate the city’s water.

Before Zajacek stepped into the role, Hector Lopez oversaw the program for eight years. Zajacek said she hopes to continue his initiatives, including setting up more cigarette receptacles.

Zajacek worked on Easton’s ambassador team for several years but always had a strong connection to the Bethlehem area.

She said her grandmother worked cleaning Lehigh dormitories and her grandfather worked cleaning at Bethlehem city hall.

“I love being on the Southside,” Zajacek said. “It’s a great mixed bag of education, industry, restaurants and residents, and I love the energy here.”

Working for the program is a job, not a volunteer position, but Zajacek said there are still ways for Lehigh students to get involved in the community and support the program.

For example, Zajacek encourages students to clean up the blocks they reside on.

On the business side of the program, the main managing group is Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation. The organization works to promote business on the South Side.

Asher Schiavone, the economic development coordinator for the City of Bethlehem, said the program launched in 2014 in partnership with Lehigh, which provides the majority of the program’s funding.

“The ambassadors are awesome,” Schiavone said. “The proof is talking with the business owners and talking with the visitors downtown. The ambassadors track how many people they reach out to.”

Schiavone said the ambassador program has a strong connection with many of the local establishments Lehigh students frequent. He said the ambassadors play an important role in increasing interactions between the Southside community and Lehigh students.

He said Zajacek has fresh ideas and he especially supports her in reinforcing that ambassadors ask individuals if they need help when they are walking around at night, when people normally go out.

Victoria Wagner, ‘24, said the Southside is a welcoming place where she is proud to walk around and show her family.

“I generally don’t feel unsafe outside,” Wagner said. “I don’t see trash on the floor or garbage bags left out. It is a really clean community.”

Schiavone said they were initially worried about Lopez’s departure but are excited to have Zajacek take his place.

Though a small group, the five ambassadors can be spotted around Bethlehem in their gold and blue uniforms.

From the street to housing: Homeless outreach efforts in Downtown Santa Monica

SMPD Image

Story shared from Santa Monica Daily Free Press

By Grace Adams

Editor’s Note:

Following this year’s annual Homeless Count on Jan 25 and in anticipation of the results in May, over the next few months the Santa Monica Daily Press will be taking a closer look at the efforts currently in place in the City to address homelessness. Through a series of articles, we’ll explore the network of available services, what’s working and what’s not, and what ideas are out there to better address the crisis going forward. Once a person falls into homelessness, the journey out is long and arduous. Through this series we’ll show what that journey looks like in Santa Monica: from the street to housing. This week, we’re focusing on outreach – the act of engaging individuals living on the street with the goal of connecting them to services – beginning with Downtown Santa Monica, the epicenter of the City’s homelessness crisis. 

On a recent Wednesday morning, Donovan Wilkes walked into the Starbucks on the Third Street Promenade, but not to order a coffee. Instead, he asked the store’s employees a series of questions: how many people were sleeping outside when the store opened at 5 a.m.? Were they the same people as usual? Any incidents he should know about?

This is how Wilkes, the Outreach Coordinator for Downtown Santa Monica (DTSM), begins many of his days. As the earliest place open on the Promenade, he said the Starbucks is a “hotspot” for homeless individuals to gather in the mornings.

“Just like most of us, they need a coffee to get the day started,” he said, gesturing to a man sitting on the ground outside holding a steaming cup in his hands. “Tony right here, he’s a regular, he sits there, he gets his coffee, he minds his business and he gets going.”

Wilkes said most of the individuals outside the Starbucks in the morning leave as the day goes on and shoppers and tourists fill the street. However, in the event that there is a problem, he said DTSM has services in place to support employees of downtown businesses.

“They know our program pretty well, they know to reach out and call for folks who are a little more aggressive,” he said.

DTSM contracts with the company Block by Block to provide maintenance, safety and hospitality services downtown. As part of an effort to address safety concerns on the promenade, they recently merged the hospitality and safety teams and put all of those employees through training to become certified as security guards.

“Just the hospitality training was not sufficient to be able to deal with some of the challenges that we face here in our downtown,” DTSM CEO Andrew Thomas said. “In the past when we had a need to respond, and there were only hospitality ambassadors available, we had to scramble to find people who could respond to these issues.”

He said that with the newly-combined team, now referred to as “community ambassadors,” DTSM has nearly doubled the number of employees through Block by Block capable of responding to safety-related concerns involving individuals experiencing homelessness and trained in de-escalation techniques.

The Outreach Team, which Wilkes heads, has much of the same training, plus additional experience and expertise on how to engage with people on the streets. In addition to being a resource to address issues that arise, their job is to approach anyone who appears to be living in homelessness downtown with the goal of connecting them to services such as shelter, mental health care, rehab and employment support, to help them get off the street and eventually into stable housing.

Building relationships

Unlike the ambassadors, who are recognizable by their teal jackets, DTSM’s five outreach workers wear casual clothes without logos or branding. The only thing that identified Wilkes as a DTSM employee as he walked down the Promenade on Wednesday was a hat reading Downtown Santa Monica across the front.

“That is intentional,” said Erica Leon, the General Manager of DTSM. “A lot of these individuals are always being approached by someone in uniform and there is a fear around that.”

Wilkes said a key part of outreach work is building relationships and gaining trust, and not differentiating himself through his clothing helps him to do that.

After leaving Starbucks, Wilkes continued down the promenade and spotted a man walking on the other side.

“Oh hey Chris!” He called out, waving. Chris smiled and stopped to talk for a few minutes.

“He is very interesting to me,” Wilkes said after Chris had left. “Chris has been out here experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica since at least 2017.”

He said Chris had occasionally gone to a shelter to shower or do laundry, but had never expressed interest in getting housing. While he said Chris had never opened up about specifically why he did not want to explore housing options, he added that this is not uncommon among people experiencing homelessness and is often the result of previous negative experiences.

“If someone’s kind of hesitant about housing, it’s usually something inside their past that they’re not expressing,” he said.

This, Wilkes said, is where the value of relationship building through outreach comes in. Even if someone does not accept services the first, second or even tenth time he offers them, by developing that ongoing relationship he is able to build trust and gain a better understanding of what is holding them back and work to overcome it.

“It’s all about the constant engagement,” he said. “That’s why whenever I do see Chris I stop whatever I am doing and go talk to him – it’s getting the smallest bits of information from him one at a time… putting the small things together to create the whole picture.”

Wilkes said he and his team take a “trauma informed” approach to outreach, keeping in mind how the experiences people living in homelessness have been through contribute to their current state.

“Even if you experienced homelessness for one night, you are already facing a whole lot of trauma which is going to affect mental health,” he said. “And the more time you spend at the street level, you deteriorate – you’re exposed to more trauma, you’re exposed to more difficulties.”

Several members of the outreach team have experienced homelessness themselves and Wilkes said this helps them to effectively engage with people and determine the best services to meet their specific needs.

“They are able to connect with our clients, people at street level, in a different way than somebody who hasn’t experienced homelessness would be,” he said. “The idea that they understand what the struggles are, they understand what the barriers are, they understand the circumstances and they’re able to have that language to speak towards them that the person at the street level can really feel.”

Measuring Progress

Walking down 2nd Street towards Colorado Avenue, Wilkes encountered a man walking down the sidewalk with a duffle bag whom he had not seen in Santa Monica before. He approached the man, introduced himself and asked if he was interested in learning about services.

The man looked surprised by the question at first, but then said, “Yeah man, I’m tired of being on the street.”

Wilkes talked to him for a bit and found out that his mother had passed away and that his mental health had not been in a good place since.

There are many reasons people become homeless and Wilkes said acknowledging that and approaching individuals with empathy and not judgment is part of the solution.

“If my mom passed away I’d be lost in the world too,” Wilkes told the man.

He asked him a few questions and found out the man did not have a valid ID, which is necessary to receive most forms of services. Getting an ID requires a valid mailing address which the man did not have. Wilkes told him he could use the address of the nearby shelter and filled out a form with all of the information he would need. He then gave the man a bus ticket and directions to the nearest DMV.

Before he left, Wilkes pulled out a ziplock bag containing snacks and a water bottle and handed it to the man. All of the outreach workers carry a snack pack, emergency blanket, hygiene products, socks and other essential items in their packs, but Wilkes said they keep track and make sure not to provide them to the same person more than once.

“We don’t want to continue to give out the same items to the same people, at that point we’re only enabling them and keeping them on the street,” he said. “These are items to be given in the intermediate so they can get to the actual, more sustainable resource.”

Throughout the morning Wilkes talked to close to a dozen people. He recorded each interaction into a data system that DTSM uses to monitor the situation and analyze trends. A few individuals, like the man on 2nd Street, were receptive to his offers of services, but others were not. While Wilkes said the goal of this type of work is to get people to utilize services that ultimately lead to housing, there are other, more incremental ways he measures success through developing relationships.

“The goal of outreach is to get individuals experiencing homelessness off the streets and indoors, but the success is a resilient, confiding relationship built with individuals experiencing homelessness – trust is gained, services are accepted,” he said.

In addition to DTSM, Santa Monica also has an outreach team within the police department called the Homeless Liaison Program and the City also funds outreach teams through The People Concern organization. However, as Wilkes pointed out, outreach and getting people to accept services is only half the battle. Navigating the network of services and getting on a path to housing is a whole other challenge, especially with an overall lack of resources.

“There’s a shortage of services at all levels,” said Margaret Willis, a human services administrator for the City of Santa Monica. “There’s not enough outreach, there’s not enough shelter, there’s not enough permanent housing, there’s not enough mental health care, not enough substance centers.”

Meet Our Downtown Long Beach Clean and Safe Employees of the Quarter

Originally posted by Downtown Long Beach Alliance

From Skydiving to Becoming Locally Famous, DLBA Clean & Safe Team Employees of the Quarter Bring a Vibrant Energy to Downtown

DLBA is proud to introduce Sergio Castillo and Aaron Daniel, members of our Clean and Safe Team, who have been selected as Employees of the Quarter. Both came from distant locations to make their homes in Long Beach and have become key figures in the wellbeing of our Downtown community.

Aaron Daniel

Aaron Daniel, our Safety Ambassador of the Quarter, has been working with DLBA for close to a year. “I believe I was hired because they knew I had the personality to relate to people,” he said. Daniel can be found throughout the Downtown five days a week, working on one of the seven Safe Team routes.

Daniel credits his mother for teaching him how to talk to people during his upbringing in Memphis, Tennessee. He put his people skills to work early in life, demonstrating a natural aptitude for entrepreneurship. “I pulled my first car wash customer when I was eight,” he said. “It was the first twenty-dollar bill I ever made. I saved it for two years. By the time I was 12, I had thirty or forty lawns to cut every couple of weeks.”

On a continuous quest for knowledge, Daniel moved to Palm Springs and attended Mayfield College in nearby Cathedral City, becoming a Certified Computer Technician. He then moved to Hollywood to pursue another passion, music.

He relocated to Downtown Long Beach during the pandemic and began focusing on starting his own record label. He is now the sole proprietor of Jibba Jabba Records. So far he has signed a rock band and two rappers, and he is in negotiations with a free jazz artist.

Daniel described what he does as a Safety Ambassador: “My duties are simple. I’m looking out for people, places, and things that could be hazardous to your safety, the public’s safety, my safety and my team’s safety. It could be a light bulb that’s out in a dark place, a section of electric wiring that’s hanging too low, or a street grate someone could trip over.”

He went on to tell us how he enjoys helping folks on the street in Downtown who are having a tough time, giving them moral support, and providing information about services and shelters. “You have to have compassion and be humble,” he said.

Daniel gets great satisfaction from providing safety escorts to anyone in Downtown who requests one. “You can be young or old,” He noted. “If you feel like you’d like a DLBA Safety Ambassador to walk with you, we will escort you to and from your destination.”

When looking for excitement on his off days, Daniel doesn’t mess around. “When I get bored, I jump out of airplanes,” he said. “I’ve done it four times, at Lake Elsinore. Three more and I get my license.”

Daniel also spends lots of time with his daughter, Aarea-Uana, who is undoubtedly learning and benefiting from his caring, can-do, adventurous attitude.   

Sergio Castillo

Sergio Castillo was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was selected as Clean Team Employee of the Quarter after only four months on the job. His supervisors had made note of his diligence in maintaining cleanliness and being helpful to visitors each time he works one of the eight Clean Team routes.

We met with Castillo for some background details just moments after he was the surprise subject of an impromptu video documentary by a group of young journalists who were in Downtown Long Beach for the Student Television Network 2023 Convention. A crowd had gathered as he demonstrated how he went about his duties.

When asked if he felt famous, he laughed, “Well, this is my second interview of the day.”

Castillo was born and raised in Mexico City, along with three older brothers and a sister. After middle school, he was eager to get to work, and wanted to join his brothers who had all moved to the U.S. “I’d always heard how nice it was in the United States, and how one could make easy money – in the early nineties,” he said.

After arriving in Long Beach in 1994, Castillo immediately enrolled at Long Beach City College, immersing himself in the study of English. He also got married and had two children, Coby and Chloe. After getting a good grasp on his second language, he embarked on a career that led him to Downtown.

Castillo took notice of the Clean and Safe Teams last year while working at Dog Haus at 210 East Third Street. He visited DLBA, applied for a position, and was hired in late 2022. He loves the energy of Downtown, especially on weekends. He mentioned how much he is looking forward to his first summer on the job.

Castillo puts in major walking mileage at work and likes to stay on his feet even during down time. He lives near Signal Hill and hikes there regularly. His favorite off-work activity, though, is spending time with his kids.

Want to learn more about our Clean & Safe Team? Visit downtownlongbeach.org/clean-safe. For Clean & Safe Team employment opportunities, click here.

Golden Triangle Ambassador Program Launches, Providing Enhanced Hospitality and Public Assistance on City Streets

Downtown Pittsburgh – Today, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) announced the official launch of its new Golden Triangle Ambassador program. Operated by Block by Block, with funding from the City of Pittsburgh and community partners, this initiative expands upon the PDP’s existing Clean and Outreach services in Downtown by bringing eleven additional full-time staff to create a new program that brings community service representatives to Downtown streets seven days a week.

“Downtown is Pittsburgh’s heart and soul, and these Ambassadors will play an integral part in helping everyone feel safe and welcome in the heart of our great city,” said Mayor of Pittsburgh Ed Gainey. “We have seen this type of program work in other cities, and we believe that this initiative will be a critical piece of our efforts to help more people be able to enjoy all that Downtown has to offer.”

The Ambassador program launches during a time of rapid change and growth in Downtown, as commuters return to the office at exponential rates and the residential population continues to rise, with an estimated 4,400 new residential units in the pipeline. Meanwhile, visitor foot traffic has nearly recovered to 2019 levels, with an estimated 60,000 people passing through Market Square every week, and restaurants and retailers seeing business that rivals or surpasses pre-pandemic levels.

The Golden Triangle Ambassadors will complement the PDP’s highly successful Clean and Outreach teams and provide an easily identifiable and highly visible presence with branded uniforms and equipment. A well-trained team of eight full-time ambassadors, two supervisors, and a dispatch officer will work in shifts, 7 a.m. – 11 p.m., seven day a week, to deliver hospitality and public assistance, walking and biking patrols, monitoring, reporting, and expanded outreach with local businesses.

“Our ambassadors will greatly enhance our efforts to make Downtown a more welcoming place by adding more trained personnel and key resources to our streets and public spaces,” said PDP President
& CEO Jeremy Waldrup. “It takes a village to get these programs off the ground, and I’m grateful for partners like the Allegheny Conference and the generous support of the City, the philanthropic community, and corporate partners who make this initiative possible.”

The Benter Foundation, a key philanthropic supporter of the Ambassador program, noted a strong alignment with the organization’s mission to enhance life in our city’s urban core.

“Supporting a program like this is an investment in the future of Downtown as a livable, welcoming and thriving community that reflects the region as a whole,” said Foundation President William Benter. Lou Cestello, Pittsburgh regional president for PNC Bank, a corporate sponsor of the Ambassador program, added, “Pittsburgh is PNC’s hometown, and we feel passionately about making this a city where all our constituents can thrive. We are excited to collaborate on this program to improve the experiences of those who live, work, and visit the center of our city. The Ambassadors will be a welcome presence for the Downtown business community as well as the tens of thousands that visit regularly for cultural and sporting events.”

The PDP is extremely grateful for the continued commitment and support of business and program partners who are instrumental to the successful launch of the Golden Triangle Ambassador program, including:
• Benter Foundation
• Buchanan Ingersoll
• Buhl Foundation
• Calgon Carbon
• Citizens
• City of Pittsburgh
• Duquesne Light
• Eden Hall Foundation
• Giant Eagle
• Highmark
• Huntington
• Koppers Inc.
• PITT OHIO
• PNC
• PPG
• University of Pittsburgh
• UPMC

About the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is a dynamic, nonprofit organization comprised of business and community leaders, property owners, civic organizations, foundations, and residents who provide energy, vision, and advocacy for Downtown Pittsburgh. Working collaboratively with its partners, the PDP strives to create a positive Downtown experience for residents, workers and visitors alike. The PDP’s strategic initiatives include clean and safe services, transportation, and economic development and advocacy. For more information, visit www.DowntownPittsburgh.com, LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/pittsburgh-downtown-partnership/, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: @downtownpitt.

March 22nd Declared Randi Haynes Day in Chattanooga

Photo from the office of Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly

Original article from Local 3 News

Chattanooga woman who helped deliver baby on Broad Street honored with her own day

A woman who helped deliver a healthy baby girl on a downtown sidewalk earlier this month will now have a day to honor her.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly has proclaimed March 22 as Randi Haynes Day in Chattanooga, honoring Hanyes’ actions the day she jumped into action to help a laboring woman welcome her baby into the world.

Haynes, who happens to be a midwife, was at work that Friday when she rushed to help the pregnant mother safely birth her baby on Broad Street.

“Randi’s actions that day exemplify the extraordinary ways that Chattanoogans care for each other in times of crisis,” Mayor Tim Kelly said. “In recognition of her courage and kindness, I’m proud to proclaim today as Randi Haynes Day in Chattanooga. Thank you, Randi, for serving as an inspiration to us all!”

Couple welcomes baby girl after being born on downtown Chattanooga sidewalk

Randi Haynes, Operations Manager at the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance, poses with mother and baby after helping deliver the baby on a busy downtown street.

Block by Block Operation’s Manager says she was in the right place at the right time to help safely deliver baby

A couple recently welcomed their new baby into the world on a sidewalk in downtown Chattanooga.

For Randi Haynes, the Operations Manager at the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance, it was just another Friday morning at work.

Haynes was waiting for her interview outside the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance building before springing into action to help the pregnant mother.

“I checked my phone it was 9:54 in the morning, and I turn around to a woman screaming, “My daughter’s having her baby. I said that’s great and she said, no, she’s coming out right now.”

Haynes happened to be a midwife and jumped into action.

She opened the car door and saw the mother and part of the baby’s head.

“She gave me one good push, and we had a very healthy baby girl. Just did a little newborn support and stimulation to get her breathing on her own, and everyone was happy and healthy.”

Chris Mosey, the owner of Ignis Glass Studio, said, “Next thing I know someone was screaming my name, I ran outside, and Randi was hunched over inside the car delivering a baby. A lot of stuff has happened on this corner here, but nothing that inspiring and that wonderful; it was very cool.”

Haynes says although the situation was unexpected — she just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

“I think that it shows the power in community and someone paying attention and having the confidence and ability to just jump in and support a mom.”

She says within 8 minutes of the birth, EMS, firefighters, and police were on the scene.

“She and baby get to go home today. Everyone was happy, healthy, and the baby’s doing great.”

See original article and video from Local 3 News. 
Posted on Wednesday March 8, 2023 by Insider Look

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Introducing the Skyway Program

Hospitality and Safety Welcomed Into the Skyways

Four Safety Ambassadors in Downtown Minneapolis posing for a photo

At first glance, the winter streets of Downtown Minneapolis bear a deceptive appearance. The sidewalks aren’t bustling with rushing commuters, nor are visitors braving the fierce winds to explore the city’s architecture. The work week brings an illusion of a deserted metropolis; however, the city is secretly buzzing with people.

The downtown landscape is interconnected through a complex and expansive skyway system. These aerial links connect one business to another, alleviating the residents and commuters from facing the outdoor elements.

Downtown Minneapolis contains key landmarks like the Target Feild Center, Minneapolis Convention Center, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis Orchestra and many others. These large facilities hold concerts, conventions, and sporting events, attracting thousands of visitors daily.

The skyway system serves as a covered walkway, enabling visitors to travel from one side of downtown to the opposite without leaving the comfort of a sheltered walkway. However, navigating the pathways can be a challenging task to the unfamiliar. Because skyways do not mirror the streets, getting to the correct locations may require unexpected turns.

In collaboration with Block by Block, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District worked on a solution to battle the skyway confusion.

“Instead of laying off some of our Ambassadors in the winter, during our slow season, we worked with DID to create the Skyway Program,” shares LaVelle, the general manager at Block by Block, Minneapolis.

Prior to the new program, Safety Ambassadors would serve the community only outdoors, but now they are helping hundreds of people learn the skyway system. The new program creates job stability during the slow season for Ambassadors and provides a valuable resource for those traversing the skywalk.

Received well by the public, the new program is consistently getting emails of appreciation. Ambassadors are always on high alert for individuals who seem lost. The team distributes skyway maps and provide escorts for those who need a little more help getting to their destination.

“I was completely lost in the skyway,” James, an out-of-town visitor, emailed DID. “Elise went out of her way to help me. She must have walked with me for a mile to get me where I was going. She really helped me out.”

Beyond giving directions, the Safety Ambassadors also deliver a safety element to the skywalks. Safety Ambassadors will walk visitors or residents to their final destination, ensuring the individual feels safe and secure.

Business hours are another layer of complexity visitors encounter. Because each business privately owns each skyway, the open hours differ. The skyway map, accessed at skywayaccess.com, contains a directory of all the skyway business hours.

Next time you visit Downtown Minneapolis, don’t hesitate to ask one of our friendly DID Ambassadors for help. They will quickly get you to your destination, and you can avoid misleading directions from your mobile navigation system!

Posted on Wednesday March 1, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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No Longer the Underdog

Ambassador Spotlight: Uledus Roseman

In 1991, Uledus Roseman left his past in Missouri and arrived in St.Paul, Minnesota, with only $50 in his pocket. He craved a fresh start, but the journey ahead still held many challenges.

Growing up, Uledus did not have an easy upbringing. He was raised by his grandmother in Sedalia, Missouri. Once he turned eight, Uledus was reunited with his mother in Oakland, California. He witnessed the abusive marriage his mother was in, which negatively affected his educational abilities.

While attending Hamilton Junior High School, Uledus’s mother frequently pulled him out of school. Unable to stay on track with his peers, he developed learning differences and a stutter, setting another challenge before him. Uledus was put into the special ed program, preventing him from achieving a high school diploma. Instead, the school awarded him a certificate of attendance.

“I felt like the underdog my whole life,” Uledus shared.

Up until his early thirties, he battled with substance addiction, but he didn’t stay the underdog he presumed himself to be for long. Uledus felt a spiritual guidance to take control of his life and rise like a phoenix.

“I was always so hard on myself, but I have so much to prove. I didn’t want to let people down,” Uledus said. The memories of his two special ed teachers encouraged Uledus to strive for more.

“They invested so much time in me. They were like my moms away from home,” he added, “I wanted to break the underdog mold.”

He enrolled at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College to pursue a degree in addiction counseling. Due to his learning challenges, Uledus had his work cut out for him. He needed to start his degree by taking high school-level English and reading classes.

“I flunked the high school level English twice before I could pass it,” he added, “I even had to get a tutor to help.”

Uledus landed an internship opportunity working at a transitional center while attending college. After graduation, he gained experience working as a chemical dependency tech and a CNA at a veteran’s home before pursuing his career in outreach work.

He joined the Livability Team with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District and Block by Block in 2021. He began helping the city’s vulnerable population by connecting them with the right resources or providing quick assistance.

“This job has changed my life in so many ways,” Uledus shares, “This job is like a Tylenol because whatever you have going on in your life, it doesn’t compare to what some people experience.”

He witnessed some difficult things on the field, but it hasn’t discouraged him from continuously supporting his community. Uledus’s desire to help others rise pushed him to discover a passion for motivational speaking.

He often braves the starling cold while most people are sound asleep to record motivational messages for his YouTube channel. In his videos, Uledus discusses life and creating a vision for the future. Some of his videos include “Living a Clean Life”, “Your Thermostat of Life” and “The Front Row”.

Uledus hopes to inspire others to work hard and overcome their challenges. Because he was deeply motivated by his special ed teachers, he hopes to do the same for other high school students.

“It’s more than just doing motivational speaking. I want to bring that motivational element to anything I do,” Uledus said.

Downtown Ambassadors are the ‘eyes and ears of the street’ keeping Frederick postcard perfect

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post
Dwayne Brooks, a greeter with the Downtown Frederick Ambassador Program, hands out maps of the town to area businesses people like Gillian Berluti, manager of Firestone’s Market on North Market Street.

Originally posted by Joeseph Peterson, Special to The News-Post

It’s no secret, downtown Frederick has a look and feel straight out of central casting for a Hallmark holiday movie.

The state tourism promoter, Visit Maryland, describes it as “a thriving 50-block historic district for shopping, dining, art, architecture, and entertainment.”

And it’s one of those charming historic districts that not only attracts visitors from the wider region but hums with the ebb and flow of local daily life.

On a typical day, the sidewalks are bustling, the shops are inviting, and the aromas from busy restaurants and bistros entice passersby to come in and satisfy their appetites.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, none of this comes as news to you. But consider this: 50 blocks. That is a large area for a small city to keep up that level of charm week in and week out, year after year. Vibrant downtowns don’t just happen by accident, after all. And while maintaining and operating Frederick’s historic district is the work of many, there is a crack team of just a few workers who are taking on some of the heavy lifting to keep it postcard perfect.

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

“We’re out here walking the streets, we’re meeting people, we’re greeting them and talking to them, making them feel welcome,” said Dwayne Brooks, a supervisor of that team known as the Downtown Ambassadors.

Since late 2021, the Downtown Frederick Partnership has managed the city’s contract with Block by Block, a hospitality service provider in more than 200 cities across the country, to run the Downtown Ambassador Program in Frederick.

What started in 2018 as a downtown safety and services initiative by the city and the Ausherman Family Foundation led to the creation of a committee tasked with investigating the feasibility of an ambassador program here.

DFP executive director Kara Norman, who chaired the committee at the time, said DFP had been hoping to have an ambassador program for years. While a fully staffed cleaning and hospitality program doesn’t come cheap, she said, “It was that initiative that really got the momentum going to help us get the funding necessary.”

Now a fully realized team of four in the winter and six in the summer, these ambassadors are tasked with making downtown Frederick cleaner, safer and welcoming from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every Wednesday through Sunday. Brooks’ role centers around hospitality, a broad term for myriad services that require hefty doses of local knowledge, social skills, resource training and a fair amount of tact.

“We get a lot of compliments,” Brooks says, noting that several times a day people thank him for what he and his team do. “We talk to everybody — visitors, residents that live in the area, the homeless population. We know a lot of them by first name, and they know us.”

The hospitality team spends most of its time giving directions, fulfilling requests to accompany solo guests to their cars at night, orienting visitors to parking facilities and, in a manner of speaking, making sure folks know where the sidewalk ends when they’ve enjoyed a few too many.

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

Luckily, Brooks was on duty when a man in a nice suit, who had evidently knocked back a few too many, started stumbling into the street, trying to remember where he parked his car. The man was able to get assistance not only to get out of the immediate danger of the street but to find a better way home than driving a car in his condition.

“We don’t know the impact of what could have happened, had Dwayne not happened to meet him and get him on a better path,” Norman said, “so to me, it’s really impactful to think about. … There’ve been great stories,” Norman added, recalling an incident where an older woman, at lunch with her friends, was unable to physically make it back to her car. “The ambassadors connected with her, got her a chair, got her some water and stayed with her until her friends were able to go get the car and bring it to her.” The ambassador team later received a thank-you note from the woman’s daughter, saying “how appreciative she was that people took such good care of her mother,” Norman recalled.

As of September 2022, about a year into the Downtown Frederick Ambassador Program, Block by Block recorded 730 instances where hospitality assistance was fulfilled, including 151 times when a hospitality escort was provided. In that same time period, the cleaning crew ambassadors saw to the removal of biohazard material 549 times, as well as the collection of hundreds of cigarette butts. Well, 602 to be precise — and Block by Block builds its reputation on being precise.

Checking in with businesses in the historic district is another function of hospitality the ambassadors provide. They see whether there’s any way they can support business owners and staff with any public needs, as well as restock the contact cards usually displayed inside the shops that feature information on how to reach an ambassador, should the need arise.

“We are the eyes and ears of the street,” said Bryan Dixon, Block by Block’s operations manager for the Downtown Frederick Ambassador Program. Per their September 2022 report, the ambassadors made contact with local businesses 486 times, in addition to removing graffiti, stickers and more than 500 bags of trash.

“It’s been great. The business owners love us here,” said Dixon, who previously worked with an ambassador program in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor neighborhood. “The ambassadors in Frederick are great. They’ve built a great relationship with the business owners and guests before I even got here. I’m just helping to keep it going, keep them motivated.”

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

Posted on Friday January 13, 2023 by Insider Look

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The Livability Network

Downtown Minneapolis Caring For All Its Residents

Minneapolis Livability Team Member Helping Man

Out of 75,729 total interactions made by the Ambassadors in 2022, 3,746 were interactions between a special outreach team and residents requiring assistance. This data highlights that hospitality services offered in Downtown Minneapolis extend beyond friendly greetings or location findings. MDID and other groups in Downtown Minneapolis are working to extend hospitality to all members of the community, including the city’s most vulnerable residents.

In 2016, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID), in collaboration with Block by Block, added social outreach services to its Ambassador programming – also known as the Livability Team. The team is comprised of four passionate individuals who work around the clock, reaching out to people and connecting them with resources offered in Hennepin County.

The job fulfilled by the Livability Team takes patience and positivity. It’s more than showing up to work and going through the motions. Being a Livability team member requires grit. It is a career that takes compassion, communication, kindness, and much more. Many traits in these team members contribute to their ability to help others.

These four individuals are the architects of networking. They establish connections with various community programs designed to help the unsheltered population, and they hold a vast knowledge of all the different resources people can be connected with. The Livability Team bridges the gap between those who require assistance and the organizations that offer aid. In addition, the team has direct contact with the Hennepin Country social worker to deliver the right help straightaway.

The Livability Team ensures when they are out on the field, they meet each individual where they are. While maintaining their professionalism, sometimes this requires using the same dialect as the person they are communicating with or maintaining the same eye level height. Meeting people where they are, requires seeing people on equal ground and locking away any presumptions.

“Being slow to speak but quick to listen,” Uledus, a Livability team member of almost two years, shares to be his number one rule.

Being present and self-aware is key to providing the proper outreach to the individuals requiring assistance. “Building trust is essential and takes time. But it is also important to recognize just because they trust you doesn’t mean they will trust others,” Clarence, another Livability team member, says.

The team begins their day by going to locations where people tend to spend prolonged periods of time and perform wellness checks. This includes making sure everyone is well and not requiring medical assistance. While making the first round of check-ins, it is also a great time to see if they can provide quick aid, like handing out gloves, hand warmers, water, and snacks. The workday begins by showing care.

Once the initial rounds of check-ins are complete, Livability Ambassadors scout individuals who they have been in contact with previously. Each Livability team member keeps a list of individuals they connect with regularly. This allows them to form consistent communication and build meaningful relationships. All interactions are tracked through Block by Block’s SMART System to record any resources individuals were connected with or the progress made.

It’s important to recognize that asking for help is easier said than done, which is the case for many residents. In many instances, the Livability Ambassadors will only engage in brief conversations to show their presence; over time, they will aim to develop a meaningful relationship.

“People have difficulty asking for help or accepting it. Some people need help just to ask for help.” Clarence expresses.

“We also do not want to enable people. We want to inspire and educate them to turn their own lives around.” Uledus adds.

The Liveability Team works hard to help as many people as possible, and sometimes getting an individual to accept help or take a step in the right direction is a huge victory.

Clarence experienced firsthand the impact he brings to the community. Recently, he was stopped by a man he failed to recognize. Clarence was unaware that he was being approached by someone who he had helped a year ago. The man was filled with emotions. He thanked Clarance for helping him find a place, a job and connecting him with immigrant resources.

“We are not the solution, but more the facilitator to get individuals the right help. We are just the start of the solution, but we can act the mitigator or be the middle person for whatever is needed,” Uledus addresses a common misconception about his role.

“We are also not enforcers. We do not push anything on individuals or remove them from certain locations. We are simply there to help in any way we can,” Clarence adds.

Minneapolis has hundreds of resources the Livability team members can connect people with. Their connection list includes St.Stephen’s Street Outreach, House of Charity, Hennepin Country Shelter Team, and COPE, to list a few. The organizations provide a long list of services and support that includes meals and showers, shelters and housing, health care, mental health care, trauma care, life emergency assistance, literacy assistance, and more.

The Liveability Team understands the importance of establishing a network. It is crucial to work with others. Fruitful networking adds more resources to the list and empowers others to help in any way possible. Setting a precedent for networking unlocks new ways of supporting those needing assistance. It broadens the scope of reaching more individuals with the right help.

“Understanding that you are not the solution is key. Collaboration is the force behind our success. This creates a movement for people to help as well. It is a powerful thing. ” Uledus affirms.

Just as with any profession, the Livability Team faces its own challenges, but it’s maintaining a positive outlook that helps them overcome adversity.

“It is hard work, yet it is important to go above and beyond. It is not about doing what is required but doing more.” Clarence says.

The Livability Team encourages the Minneapolis community to continue to be open-minded.

“Don’t judge. We are always quick to judge others, but being unhoused or facing a difficult time can happen to anyone.” Uledus shares. “It takes time to build trust, and most individuals are not quick to ask for help, especially if there are factors like mental health and substance abuse at play.”

“Being kind can get you a long way!” Clarance adds.