All-Star effort helps underserved Cincy community

Makeover of Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses will leave long-lasting impact

All-Star effort helps underserved Cincy community

CINCINNATI -- Alexis Kidd started reciting the facts and got everyone's attention, from Reds president Bob Castellini to the 300 to 400 mostly dirt-covered P&G and Cincinnati Zoo volunteers who had worked so hard here to make a difference all day.

"Our life expectancy in the West End is 20 years less than any community in the city," Kidd said. "We have one of the highest infant mortality rates around. So there's so much investment that's needed."

• Complete All-Star Game coverage

Kidd, the executive director of the Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses area, was speaking Thursday as the heart and soul of this long underserved part of the Greater Cincinnati area. Her words only made everyone appreciate even more what was happening at the start of All-Star Week, where Major League Baseball and the host Reds are in full stride with community events to leave a legacy long after the big game ends.

For the past five years, the Reds Community Fund has partnered with locally based Procter & Gamble to create the "Community Makeover" initiative with hundreds of volunteers in one community on one day. MLB's support during All-Star Week allowed the program to expand dramatically and made this the biggest project to date under this initiative.

The volunteers and contractors completed a significant makeover project at the Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses facility, with additional work at a large playground space at the vacant Sands School adjacent to the facility and the nearby Dyer Baseball Fields. The work at the community center features major HVAC and roofing repairs, as well as improvements to the kitchen, library, game room, computer room and other areas.

Volunteers gather at the Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses. (MLB.com)

The project at the playground includes a new painted surface, landscaping and a community garden. The work at the Dyer fields includes a new backstop and landscaping upgrades. The overall project will help to revitalize the West End Community and provide a safe and welcoming environment for kids to learn, grow and play baseball. P&G's investments in the Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses will provide significant and sustainable impact, including reducing annual operating costs and energy usage and investing in the long-term development of the community and its residents.

"It could be one thing just coming in and playing a game and packing up your stuff and leaving, but to leave footprints -- I'm not going to forget this year," Kidd said as kids played gleefully. "It's not because of the game and how great someone's going to play, how many Reds got in -- it's not about that. It's about how these kids are going to be affected each and every day that they have a safe place to play. To have a center that's warm to come to. It's just amazing."

MLB and the Reds Community Fund contributed $5 million for the makeover. The Community Project presented the Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses group a check for $47,000, which P&G vice president Jodi Allen said "will help make this sustainable."

It was the sixth year of the Community Makeover, and Castellini called this one "the most meaningful, because it is the most needed." He and Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini spoke at the ribbon-cutting event along with Tony Petitti, MLB's COO.

"It not only makes daily life better for this community's residents," Bob Castellini said, "but it reminds them that they are important, and that inspires hope and possibility into one of Cincinnati's original neighborhoods. I can think of no calling higher than that."

"We're extremely proud to be partnering with P&G on this project," Petitti said. "One of the most important aspects of the All-Star Game is the opportunity to leave something behind in the community. Commissioner [Rob] Manfred has make a point of trying to connect with kids, and a facility like this that will give kids the opportunity to play and enjoy themselves and build friendships for many years after the game is gone is one of the most important things we can do."

Kidd was joyful after holding back tears during her speech.

"We are no longer forgotten," she said. "We are going forward."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.