Kenneth (“Kenny”) J. Rice, Sr. recently accepted the position of Manager for the Elm Street Designation program for the City of New Castle’s Lower East Side neighborhood, which is administered through DON Enterprises, Inc. Kenny has been with the DON “family” of business entities since 2007 in numerous roles and capacities, including personal care attendant, facilities supervisor, and corporate board member. A life-long resident of New Castle, he resides in the Elm Street Designation’s project area. Kenny’s love and commitment for his neighborhood has been demonstrated by his spearheading grassroot initiatives such as Annual Community Clean-up Days, Neighborhood Watch, the Lower East Side Community Garden, and the Lawrence County Day of Prayer. Among other accomplishments, Kenny received the 2020 Dominion Energy/Western Pennsylvania Environmental Council Award for the Lower East Side Community Garden, 2020 Oneness of Lawrence County – Uniting Community, Citizen Award, 2019 Lawrence County Conservation District Urban Stewardship Award, 2019 NAACP Thomas Farrow Community Award, 2019 Tri-County Clean Ways Community Steward Award, and 2019 Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Volunteer of the Year. Kenny has been married to his beloved wife, Laura, for 14 years and he has 9 children. Kenny is a staple of his community, and he takes exceptional pride in continually working on improving the neighborhood by maintaining public areas, tending to gardens, and simply being a good neighbor to his many fellow residents.
The Elm Street neighborhood revitalization initiative is a program awarded by the Dept. of Community and Economic Development and is facilitated by the PA Downtown Center.
The initiative is intended to be a comprehensive approach to long-term neighborhood sustainability. To date, there are only two designated Elm St. Communities in the Commonwealth of PA.
The Elm Street designation was awarded for the period of March 2, 2021, to March 30, 2026.
The Elm Street Program manager connects with neighborhood homeowners, renters, businesses, community leaders, potential contributors, and stakeholders to assess needs and works to match resources to those needs.
The Elm Street Approach is structured around five focus areas:
- Safe, Clean and Green – deals with the stewardship of a neighborhood, clearing and maintaining the neighborhood.
- Neighbors and Economy – relates to the economic relationship between residents and businesses.
- Design – handles the physical elements within the neighborhood. Should be pedestrian oriented and should have an architecturally significant housing stock.
- Image & Identity – looks at and seeks to improve the neighborhood’s perception.
- Sustainable Organization – involves getting various groups and volunteers in the neighborhood working together towards common goals.
The Keystone Elm Street designation means that New Castle will receive priority consideration under several Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) programs including the Keystone Communities Program, will be eligible for complimentary technical assistance and programmatic support from the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC) over the next five years and will receive priority status for various funding applications submitted to the DCED. New Castle will also be eligible for Neighborhood Assistance Program Enterprise Zone tax credits for private sector development within the designated Elm Street Program area. Having a manager who lives in and understands the community well is key.
Some programs provided are the Lower East Side Community Garden, playground renovations, neighborhood cleanups, community watch meetings, grant writing, budgeting, home renovations, quarterly newsletters, web page communications, Golden Broom awards, Volunteer of the Year awards, information and referrals through social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).
A press event to formally announce the designation took place Thursday, June 10th at 2:00 PM at the Lower East Side Community Garden, 202 North Walnut Street, Lower East Side, New Castle. The public was invited, and it was well attended.