The Melville Charitable Trust took a bold step in 2003 when it purchased the Lyceum on Lawrence Street in Frog Hollow and transformed it into a hub for community development and housing policy. Today, the Lyceum is home to the Partnership for Strong Communities, a nonprofit that advocates for proven solutions to issues like homelessness, affordable housing, and community development.
The Melville Charitable Trust’s vision for Frog Hollow was clear: to create a healthy and vibrant community where children could learn and play, parents could access training and opportunities for personal success, and residents could come together in shared experiences. To bring this vision to life, the Trust invested heavily in Frog Hollow, starting with the Lyceum and expanding to include other properties in the area.
These investments, which totaled more than $20 million, have led to expanded access to quality housing, healthy food, and employment opportunities for local residents. Among the Trust’s many community investments are the purchase of the 98-unit Billings Forge apartments, renovations to nearby properties, and the launch of Firebox. Today, the Trust continues to support and partner with Forge City Works.
A NEW NAME: FORGE CITY WORKS
Our work began in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford in 2008. At that time, we were engaged in a wide breadth of programming, from artist in residence programs to community gardens, all of them focused on the residents of the Billings Forge apartment complex and the surrounding streets. Although all of these programs had value and great personal meaning to participants; their focus and long term purpose was not always clear.
Over the past decade, our work has become more defined and the area we serve has broadened. We have consistently and uncompromisingly focused on the impact our work has on the lives of our neighbors. In 2017, we began a process to formally and transparently state the mission and strategies of our organization.
After this work was completed, we looked at our name of Billings Forge Community Works and realized that it no longer fit what we were actually doing: providing culinary and customer service job training programs to more than 50 people yearly; providing food access through our farmers market; and running successful and sustainable social enterprises such as our cafes and catering businesses. After a long process and with input from many community members, we have chosen Forge City Works as our new name.
Because of its connection to our beginnings in the Billings name and for its other identity as a word meaning to move forward, to create, and to shape
Our initiatives empower and support residents throughout the city and surrounding communities, not just the Frog Hollow neighborhood
Because our programs are embedded in places of business; help people ready themselves for, and acquire jobs; and because what we do works in supporting people to change their own lives.