In the early 20th century Meadville was booming, so much so that the Great Depression passed it by. The thriving local economy was driven by zipper manufacturing, which spawned a tool and die industry, earning the town its moniker Tool City. The local radio station call letters were WZPR. In the 1980s Talon began to shift manufacturing out of state, and the unemployment rate soared. Today, 57% of Meadville’s housing stock is rental. Median income is $34,826 compared to $45,637 in the surrounding county. With anchor stores J.C. Penny’s and Montgomery Ward long gone, a once thriving downtown has struggled. “There was definitely this defeated mentality. Stuff has left. Jobs have left. Companies have left. Money has left, and there was a sense of being overlooked.
No one cares,” said Autumn Vogel, an alumna of Allegheny College who stayed in town after college.

Revitalizing Local Economy and Increasing Civic Engagement

Residents came together and, through Community Heart & Soul, discovered what matters most to residents. Momentum started to build. “We’ve gotten creative and scrappy and pulled some things off that made it cool to be in Meadville again,” Vogel said.

Here are some examples of positive change happening:

– Five $10,000 grants were given to businesses starting, relocating, or expanding in town. Grants have supported a vintage clothing store, a game shop expansion, a restaurant, and a painting contractor relocation.

– More than 21 community gardens have been planted in neighborhoods across the city, providing a way for residents to get fresh produce.

– A Teen Lounge was established by teens with volunteer construction help from local contractors.

– A low-interest loan program was established for fixing up historic buildings.

– Tarot Bean Roasting Company raised $10,000 through crowdsourcing and moved downtown, which gave the shop the nickname “10K Café.”

What We Do

Developed and field-tested over a decade in partnership with small cities and towns, Community Heart & Soul is a proven model for engaging a community in shaping its future.
By following this four phase, step-by-step model, residents are able to bring the community together to chart a course forward that recognizes the unique character of the place and the emotional connection of the people who live there.

Find Out How
© 2020 Community Heart & Soul® is the focus of the Orton Family Foundation, a non-profit 501c3.