Jim & Eileen Schenk win inaugural Top of the Hill Award

Price Hill Will  /  Scott Priestle

From the four generations of family who have lived in the neighborhood to the hundreds of trees she and her husband have planted, Eileen Schenk has deep roots in Price Hill.

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So when a group of funders offered to invest in a Greater Cincinnati neighborhood nearly 15 years ago, she rallied local leaders and won a grant that would change the community. Even though the Schenks’ initial proposal (for an eco-village near the intersection of Warsaw and Elberon) never came to fruition, the discussions that sprouted from it eventually led to the formation of Price Hill Will.

“Eileen did an incredible job organizing it,” Jim Schenk said. “I’ve done a lot of community organizing, and she is a much better community organizer than me. We had all of the major players in Price Hill involved.”

When Price Hill Will recently celebrated its 10th anniversary as an independent organization, it honored Eileen and Jim Schenk with the first Top of the Hill Award, in recognition of their work to strengthen the neighborhood.

“The inaugural recipient had to be truly extraordinary in their commitment and efforts to benefit the neighborhood,” said Ken Smith, executive director of Price Hill Will. “The committee instantly and unanimously decided Jim and Eileen Schenk fit that description better than anyone else.”

The Schenks are passionate proponents of sustainable living, and they have been active volunteers in numerous neighborhood groups. They founded the Imago Earth Center in Price Hill in 1978 and more recently founded the Enright Ridge Urban Eco-Village and Enright Ridge Urban Eco-Village Community Supported Agriculture.

The Eco-Village and Price Hill Will grew out of the Schenks’ efforts to win a development grant 15 years ago. “Without their vision and their leadership, we would not exist,” Smith said.

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The Schenks brought together numerous community stakeholders, including business owners, school principals and church leaders, and they helped stir thousands of residents to participate in a survey about the neighborhood’s strengths. The results of that survey led to the formation of Price Hill Will (to promote housing redevelopment) and the Eco-Village (to promote sustainable living in an urban setting), both of which began as programs of Imago.

“It was fascinating how much community input we had,” Eileen Schenk said.

In 2004, Price Hill Will officially separated from Imago and became an independent organization. In the decade since, Price Hill Will has established itself as a prominent and respected community development organization, while branching out to include economic development and community engagement initiatives.

Meanwhile, the Schenks have branched out in more literal ways – including the hundreds of trees they have planted throughout Price Hill. The Eco-Village and CSA have grown slowly but steadily in recent years, and Jim Schenk recently co-wrote and published a manual on starting an eco-village in an urban setting.

“It’s great to see the consciousness of greening in Price Hill,” Eileen Schenk said. “That’s a major thing. And then to see how Price Hill Will has grown – it is seen as an important organization in the city. That’s pretty commonplace.”