New CDC for Southern W-S hopes to bring positive change to Easton Community

New CDC for Southern W-S hopes to bring positive change to Easton Community
July 10
12:10 2023

A group of individuals with invested interest in the Easton community have started a nonprofit organization to help ensure the continued growth and development of one of Winston-Salem’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods. 

Since 1988 the Easton Neighborhood Association (ENA) has worked to ensure that the neighborhood located in the heart of the city’s Southeast Ward is safe and enjoyable for all. 

Robert Leak III said the nonprofit, CDC for Southern Winston-Salem, was started to bolster the work of the  ENA. Leak, who will serve as president of the CDC, said talks about a nonprofit began almost three years ago. But those talked didn’t materialize until ENA started working with the City and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) to retain a trailer at Easton Elementary to serve as a community resource center 

“We knew that the neighborhood association couldn’t take on the work by itself … so we developed a CDC,” Leak said. 

Currently there are 15 members on the board of directors for the CDC for Southern Winston-Salem. Leak said when looking for people in the community to serve on the board, he wanted to bring in people who were passionate about uplifting the community. “I saw the passion in them,” Leak said. 

One of those people is Julius Davis. Leak said Davis’ input was valuable because he has done this work before. Davis was a member of Southside CDC, which played a major role in bringing United Healthcare to the Southeast Plaza Shopping Center in the early 2000s. Davis said over the years the ENA has evolved based on the needs of the community, and the Southside CDC and the CDC for Southern Winston-Salem are examples of that. 

“The Easton (ENA) is one of the oldest neighborhood associations that has been in operation and we’ve evolved depending on the needs in our community,” Davis continued. “For instance, when there was a disparity in healthcare … the Southside CDC was started and the health center came out of that, which is now United Healthcare.”

Shannon Brooks, president of the Easton Neighborhood Association and board member for the CDC, said she remembers a time when Easton was like one big family and she would like to see that return. 

“We knew each other, the neighbors knew each other,” Brooks said, “and I would love to see that return. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I would love to see that return so that’s the reason I’m involved.” 

Board members Cynthia Collins and Kerry Wiggins both said they were excited to help bring some much needed resources to the community. Collins, who moved to the south side three years ago, said the community is in great need. 

“As we all know, everyone looks at this side as a poverty-stricken community, but if we can bring the resources like helping with home ownership or education, we can change that,” Collins said. 

Wiggins said she decided to serve on the board to advocate for the young people in the community and equity in schools. Wiggins, who is a retired parent involvement coordinator for WS/FCS, said, “Now I have an opportunity to help advocate for equity education and in the community; I’m ecstatic.” 

As mentioned above, the CDC for Southern Winston-Salem was started to help bring a community resource to Easton. According to Leak, the work to transform the trailer into a community resources center is underway. 

A few years ago the City of Winston-Salem obtained a trailer from WS/FCS for the community center and earlier this year, the city officials approved the contract to upgrade the trailer. Although Easton is one of the oldest communities in Winston-Salem, there isn’t a community center in the neighborhood. Leak and others say for years they’ve been pushing for a community center, but have never been able to make it happen, until now. 

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the community resource center is expected to be held later this year. The community resources center, which will be located on the campus of Easton Elementary, will focus on three areas: education, job training, and homeownership courses. 

“We feel that it’s not a handout that we’re offering to our constituents on the south side. We feel it’s a hand-up because we want to stabilize the community and the way to do that is to provide resources such as education and home ownership. We know that it works,” Leak continued. “We’ve had our hiccups along the way, but everything happens in its season and we do believe that this is the season that we’re going to see this community center come to fruition.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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