A collection of love letters written to the town.
Toledo, my adopted home.
Sirens. Street lights. People of different races and ethnicities. And a Taco Bell right on campus. These were my first impressions of my new home as my freshman roommate and I exited the highway onto Bancroft Street on August 20, 2010 (I remember the exact date because it was my Grandfather’s birthday).
The sirens would keep me up at night and the street lights accustomed me to the brightness of city life. Coming from a small town in northeast Ohio, Chardon, where the only other groups of people I saw were Amish, Toledo was a major culture shock.
After my freshman year, I decided to move out of my parents’ house in Chardon and stay in Toledo for the summer to live on my own (well, with two roommates). Permanently moving myself 3 hours from home to live with my Fraternity Brothers was not something that excited my parents. However, this summer was when I planted roots of my own.
You see, it’s not just the places and opportunities Toledo has to offer (we’ll get to those in a second) but it’s also the people. The people make this area what it is: Creative. Fun. Lively. Energetic. Friendly. Artsy. Fans of good coffee. Everything else that makes this part of the Midwest rustbelt the tough, rugged, and somehow still beautiful city that it is.
The University of Toledo was especially welcoming to an overly vocal and curious young lad – opening a number of doors and opportunities for me. Through one of our events, RockeTHON, we were able to donate over $100,000 to our local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital – Mercy St. Vincent, as well as spend countless hours with the kids being treated in the hospital. This was my first glimpse at community.
It was our community. It was my community. And it was phenomenal that some simple, regular, everyday, go-to-class-and-pretend-to-take-notes guy like me could leave this lasting and noticeable impact on the lives of total strangers.
After graduating college I was able to start a business with a friend and live handsomely off of that for over a year. The reason this was possible was the eagerness of the city and larger institutions to support the creative and ambitious young population who are looking towards the city’s future. This city is a small Midwestern mecca of jobs and industries. Need proof?
We have 4 Fortune 500 Companies in the Toledo Region:
- Owens Corning
- Owens Illinois
We have 4 Fortune 1000 Companies in the Toledo Region:
- The Andersons
- Cooper Tire
- Welltower (formerly Healthcare REIT)
Not to mention the many other industrial giants in the area; Jeep, Fifth Third Bank, Huntington, Hickory Farms, ProMedica, Mercy, and the University of Toledo.
We also have a well-connected and well-resourced tech community. There are engineering facilities, a startup incubator, and several design and development firms. There are also a plethora of creative and digital agencies. Recruitment and staffing firms are aplenty.
And sports–We have one of, if not THE, best minor league baseball stadiums. ESPN recently featured The Walleye on their “Top 10” countdown of the day’s best plays. Heck, I prefer our minor league venues to major league venues. There is more parking, less crowded seating, and cheaper beer (<— that’s important!).
And don’t even get me started on the Arts! If you haven’t visited the Old South End – Google it. You will see gorgeous murals. If you haven’t visited the Toledo Museum of Art, what are you waiting for? It’s IMMACULATE, and you’re missing out on a very “in-plain-sight” hidden gem of our city (did I mention it’s free??).
After all that, do you still need some more fun in your life? Maybe I can help! Visit Toledo’s new bar/arcade called Reset. Take a frisbee or soccer ball to any of our great metro parks in the area. Have a dog? Visit the Glass City Dog Park. Stop in the Glass City Cafe for a Bluegrass Breakfast on Saturday. Get a little weird and show up for the Adams Street Zombie Bar Crawl. Join a poetry reading at Black Kite on Wednesdays. Attend one of the many indie film festivals. Walk through the Farmers’ Market on Saturday and reinvest in local goodies. If you haven’t had Holey Toledough Donuts yet, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life! I try to capture all of these great things through my weekly podcast called Toledo Matters, www.toledomatters.com.
Fast-forward to present day – I moved downtown onto Adams Street in January but it wasn’t until a month ago that I truly began to appreciate my new neighborhood. At first glance, downtown looks like a ghost town. Vacant buildings, empty windows, and bare walls line broken sidewalk. The towering ceilings and open lobbies with empty elevator shafts in my apartment building leave the imprint of what our downtown used to be.
But, if you LOOK UP, everything changes. And I don’t mean metaphorically, but physically—look up! The architecture downtown is surprisingly beautiful art deco. The sky is often filled with planes and helicopters and bright morning skies over the Maumee River. Don’t believe me? Check out some of the aerial photos from my friend Dennis over at @RightHalf on Instagram or my personal account – you might have a change of heart.
I often hear people harp on downtown’s homelessness issue – and to that I say: we’re working on it, and quite avidly! Don’t believe me? Take a walk downtown on a Saturday morning past the library and you’ll see Food For Thought handing out hundreds of packed lunches. Check out the Cherry Street Mission and work the kitchen just one time, you’ll feel the impact you’ve made on other people. Look up the Toledo Streets Newspaper; not only do they help less fortunate people attain employment, they work with them on securing housing, breaking addictions, and securing proper medications when many of them don’t have the means to do so alone. Attend a Toledo Soup dinner, and get soup from phenomenal local chefs while hearing Non-Profit and Community Organizations pitch their ideas for the audience to vote on. The winning group receives everyone’s $5 donation from the night. Walk past the EBEID Institute on the fourth Sunday of the month and see the #LUNCHBAG group handing out sweaters and hats and gloves with prepacked lunches. Learn about 1matters.org and Veterans Matter and see the many strong-willed and amazing people all coming together to help out. Homelessness is apparent in any city, but few cities have the community support and energy to help that Toledo has.
Toledo, my adopted home: I want to acknowledge your openness and welcoming atmosphere for us outsiders. I want to congratulate you on the diversity and inclusion you have managed to maintain, even while our country as a whole rejects immigrants – we promoted ours. I want to thank you for inviting me in and having your people show me around. And I want to say thank you for your patience. While right now we aren’t what we know we can be, we know we’re working hard on it. And I invite everyone else to come play a part in this transformative journey. Because above all else—my favorite facet of this city—is the genuine ability for any one of us to be a true catalyst for this community.
Toledo, thank you for all the fun, laughs, and friends you have given me over the years.
Your adopted son,
Danny recently flexed his comedic chops by taking a level 1 improv course and performing with his improv group, MartinShame, at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre. He is one third of the ensemble that brings you Toledo Matters, a killer local podcast that is “shedding light to The Glass City’s finest”. Like them on Facebook, subscribe on iTunes. Trust us, you’ll love it, and you just may learn even more things to love about this fabulous city of ours.