Everyday Hero: Rocking the Block

Sisters Ainé Doley (left) and Emaleigh Doley In 2010, Emaleigh Doley’s neighborhood was in a precarious state. Rocked by the foreclosure crisis, the community was fragmented, and saw increases in litter and violence. “We had a lot of problems… impacting our quality of life,” Doley says.


That’s when she and her sister, Ainé Doley, co-founded the West Rockland Street Project to strengthen their block. The two dug in, literally, mobilizing their neighbors through Grow This Block, a street beautification effort that now includes an array of programming: block meetings, street clean-ups and even block party planning. “It’s about physically improving the look and the feel,” Doley says, “and about getting everyone more invested in our street as our home.

A self-described “blogger, neighborhood organizer and communications professional,” Doley has worked as an independent consultant for Next City, DesignPhiladelphia and Axis Philly. In 2011, she co-organized TEDxPhilly, a forum to share ideas to improve life in our city. She puts those ideas to work in her Germantown neighborhood.

Now, Doley is trying to facilitate connections with people working on the same issues elsewhere in the city. “We’re all reinventing the wheel on our own!” If there’s one truth to building strong, sustainable communities, it’s that you can learn a lot from one block.

Find out more about Grow This Block and the latest on the West Rockland Street Project at rocklandstreet.com.

Story by Emily Teel, photo by Neal Santos