Is Dayton a dying city? Project aims at inspiring Dayton residents

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dayton Inspires tries to change city perceptions.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Dayton Daily News is taking an in-depth look at quality-of-life issues in the Miami Valley and compares the Dayton area to like-sized metropolitan areas. We will feature stories that explore business growth, entertainment options, and a push to revitalize the core of downtown. Leaders, economic experts and residents answer the question driving the next phase of the region’s development: “Why Dayton?”

On the side of a brick building in the Oregon District, a stenciled mural paints the picture of a more united future in the city. Its message is simple: Dayton Inspires.

The local project aims to shift the perception of the city through a new social campaign that celebrates growth and opportunity in the region. Dayton Inspires, created by several young professionals in the Miami Valley, starts a conversation about the possibilities of the region — and gets people out in the community for volunteering projects.

Zack Sliver, project manager for Dayton Inspires, told the Dayton Daily News about the project — and what he envisions for the future of the Miami Valley.

Tell us about your role with Dayton Inspires, and what else you do in the city.

My volunteer position at Dayton Inspires is the project manager. I’m responsible for creating and managing projects from start to finish. I present them to our board, and together we take these ideas and make them a reality. Outside of the Dayton Inspires, I work at Lily’s Bistro. I go to school full time at Sinclair Community College, and am currently recording an album at Encore Studios in Kettering.

How did Dayton Inspires get started, and what is its mission?

Dayton Inspires was created to sway the opinion that Dayton was a forlorn and dying city with nothing to do here. It was created to revitalize community pride, as well as to give people a platform to showcase what inspired them about Dayton. The selfiewall in the Oregon District on the side of “Brim” was to empower locals to show the face of Dayton, to allow people to tell why they were inspired by Dayton.

It was created by Matthew Sliver at Catapult Creative along with Daniel Rizer and a few other social media giants in the area who helped to come up with the idea — Jordan Hockett, Tom Gilliam, Noah Fogg.

What does it mean to “shift the perception” of Dayton?

We want all Daytonians to have nothing but pride for the city we live in. People who have lived here and have began to feel disenfranchised, those are the people we are trying to influence. Those that are unable to see the change that has been happening in Dayton.

Our city has lost many large companies and the jobs that go with them in the past 30 years, giving some a mindset that Dayton would never go back to what it was. I challenge people every day to be the pebble that will eventually stop the river. With enough pebbles, we can. If we can give these people hope, they will do everything in their power to help make Dayton what it is — and what it has always been is amazing.

Dayton Inspires organizes volunteer events throughout the city. Tell us about that.

The first phase of Dayton Inspires was the social media campaign to incite a resurgence of community pride. It became a way to not only show pride, but a way to give back to Dayton. We started the second phase with a project called Dayton Clean Up. We have done two cleanups.

Our other project is FriendsGiving. In November 2015, We received a donation from “James Investment Research” that made it possible to give 50 families full thanksgiving meals to prepare for their families and neighbors.It included everything from a 14-pound turkey to the cranberry sauce, that we delivered to their homes.

There are many organizations that do a lot of good during the holiday season. We just wanted to create a project so these families could enjoy their thanksgiving in their home, with the people they invited.

One lady sent me a letter after FriendsGiving, and told me that she was able to connect with her friends and family, and she was able to invite those in her neighborhood who weren’t going to have a thanksgiving meal. I want to give people the tools to help their community, I want to help create self-sustaining change.

What do you envision for the city’s future in the next decade?

I envision the future of downtown as just being the beginning. There are many parts of Dayton that still need to feel they are a part of this revitalization. [There are so many] projects like The Water Street Project and many new businesses coming downtown — Table 33, Craft & Cured, Basil’s on the Market, Lock 27, the Levitt Pavilion.

I hope projects like this span all over the city and begin to attract more companies such as Fuyao to bring their businesses here. The snowball is already pushed down the mountain. Let’s see how big it’s going to get.

How does Dayton inspire you?

Dayton inspires me by the sheer amount of volunteers who come out to these events. It inspires me when local businesses give their time, their money, just to see a neighborhood or a family be better off than they were. Dayton inspires me to make things better for everyone that lives here.

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