[Last year Church on the Street accepted an invitation to assist the Pleasant Hill neighborhood of Macon, GA to organize and build community. Since then Michelle Witherspoon has been our primary community liaison working with neighborhood leaders. This is an update from Michelle.]
We have identified, recruited and gathered a small community of neighbors in Pleasant Hill. After several meetings and discernment exercises the group feels led toward focusing efforts on the housing/empty lot crisis. Mia, a new addition to the group, helpfully brings expertise as a real estate attorney. Another member, Belinda, works for the city of Macon and has a unique asset, the ear of city officials! The group is passionate about seeing empty lots cleaned up, homes renovated, and dilapidated homes being torn down. They continue to share stories of ways they are reaching out to their neighbors for participation and encouraging people to join the group’s efforts.
Our next steps involve helping the group to map the neighborhood – identifying neighbors keeping up their properties, abandoned homes and lots, trouble spots, patterns, potential allies and community members, etc. – in order to begin to develop a more comprehensive vision and strategy.
On a personal note, I continue to be impacted by the commitment and sense of ownership I see from each of the community members. Ms. Lillian, who often hosts the meeting at her home, is known as the Meet and Greet leader of her street. She knows her neighbors, visits them regularly, and inspires the people around her to participate in the development of the community. She herself is physically disabled, but that in no way keeps her from getting out and being an activist for her neighborhood. There is so much great history to Pleasant Hill and these neighbors hold that very closely and regularly tell stories of years past and what the neighborhood has always represented. They are refreshing to be around!