Residents are working on their neighborhoods with assistance

Residents are  working on their neighborhoods with assistance
April 23
00:00 2015
(Above: Photos by Erin Mizelle for The Chronicle- Local community residents enjoy dinner as they listen to speakers of the Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods and the United Way of Forsyth County.)

The work might not be visible to the public, but people concerned with improving their neighborhoods are working with nonprofits to help make their neighborhoods better.

Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods (NBN) and the United Way have teamed up to help residents in some northeast Winston-Salem communities, and the S.G. Atkins Community Development Corporation is working with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council  and faculty of Winston-Salem State University on the Martin Luther King Jr./Waughtown Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. They are holding meetings and organizing residents to determine what they want their neighborhoods to look and feel like and showing them how to work toward getting what they want.

Both groups met with residents in March to plan initiatives for April.

The United Way of Forsyth County and NBN representatives met with residents at the Carl Russell Sr. Community Center on Carver School Road.

They said resident input and involvement are actively being sought to build stronger, healthier neighborhoods in any of the following neighborhoods: Bowen Park, Cardinal Acres, Castle Heights, Dreamland, Eastgate Village, Ebony Hills, Ladeara Crest, Lakeside, Monticello Park, Northwoods Estate, Prospect Park, Spaulding Drive, and Wildwood Park.

Alana James, director of community-based collaborations with the United Way, said, “These are the target areas for now.”

She said the March meeting was designed to bring people together to begin to working as teams to help make their communities better.

“So many people are doing great things and don’t know each other,” James said.

She said the United Way is using multiple resources to fund its work with NBN and did not receive a grant for the project but did receive an invitation to work with residents. NBN had been working with neighborhood groups already.

NBN is a local organization that partners with neighborhood groups to support and enhance resident-led activities by providing organizing assistance, technical support and funding as needed.

James said the United Way is involved with neighborhood-building because it needs residents to help the organization when it needs help. It’s making investments.

“What we’re trying to do is build trust so that people will work with us,” James said. The help the United Way needs is volunteer gifts, skills and talents.

That’s what NBN’s Nakida McDaniels told the group of about 20 people in March that their communities need from them, too, to form asset-based communities.

Residents need to be able to work with institutions that can help them, she said.

“We teach the residents how they can step up to meet the institutions” and how the institutions can step back and work for “sustainable solutions.”

There are a lot of small groups working in neighborhoods that need to be united toward the same goal, McDaniels said. NBN works to unite them.

James said United Way partners with agencies to help build stronger communities.

For instance, if a neighborhood doesn’t have a grocery store, that might not become known to the people who can help the neighborhood get one until someone actually goes to the neighborhood to see the conditions. However, the neighborhood groups can unite to be one voice to tell the organization that the community needs a grocery store and the residents and organization can work to find ways to bring one to the community.

The ways the United Way and NBN are using to get feedback from residents are the meetings, surveys — private and group — that ask residents about themselves and what they want to see in their neighborhoods, and Neighbor Nites, in which food is served.

Food was served at the March meeting.

“A lot of this is about fellowshipping and knowing who each other are,” James said.

McDaniels said it’s also about educating, motivating and agitating to get people to act. “That’s what place-based change is all about,” she said.

The coalition is providing leadership training to residents who want to lead the effort to improve neighborhoods. Impact councils are being formed as the leading agents.

Some of the issues residents had at the March meeting were dormant neighborhood associations, food deserts, senior services and not knowing neighbors.

Dorothy Bonner, a 30-year community organizer who lives in the Bowen Park area, said at the March meeting: “There’s nothing like making a difference in your community and seeing the changes.”

She said her area is in a food desert and she and her neighborhood group have started working to get a grocery store in the area.

Dr. Madeline Scales, retired assistant vice chancellor of student activities at Winston-Salem State University, has lived in Northwood Estate since 1968. She said when she first got there, she learned who her neighbors were. Now, “we don’t know the people next door, so we really need to do something.”

Jackie Spease runs an after-school program and summer camp that help children of inmates. She is hoping to find ways to link the programs through working in her community.


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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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