There are a myriad of different success stories I could share about ANI, but one that is fresh on my mind is that of the late Bill Dulin. I met Bill at my first Alameda Neighborhood association meeting. He and his wife, Dianne, were longstanding members of the group because they owned rental property in the neighborhood and believed their participation in community activities was both important and beneficial. As we got to know each other over the span of those first few months, I learned about his passion for making Abilene a better place, especially in areas like the neighborhoods we had targeted through the Abilene Neighborhood Initiative. It seemed as though he was connected to my work in many ways: he was a leader of a local church a few streets down from the Butternut/Chestnut neighborhood, he owned a few properties scattered among ANI neighborhoods, and volunteered with several organizations that address systemic issues facing Abilene residents.
These connections proved fruitful for both of us. After our survey revealed that housing issues were concerning to many Alameda renters, Bill agreed to meet with CCC’s community coordinators and other well-regarded landlords to teach us more about the challenges and rewards of being a property owner. His wisdom and experience across Abilene helped our staff to begin a process of asking good questions of Abilene renters and landlords in order to better understand how we can help build positive relationships where connections have broken down.
Bill passed away about two weeks ago, and I was able to attend his memorial service. In a collage of mementos he had collected from his many adventures and charitable work, a folded Alameda Neighborhood Association shirt lay. When Dianne saw me, she asked me to take the shirt and wear it when I spend time in the neighborhood.
The next day was the annual Alameda Patriotic Parade. I arrived proudly wearing Bill’s shirt. Each conversation I started was a little richer knowing that I was carrying on the legacy of a man who had given so much to the community. As we walked through Alameda with partners like APD, AFD, local nonprofits, and dozens of neighborhood children and parents, I waved at the families standing in their doorways or on their front lawns. I called out, “Happy Independence Day! We’re glad you’re a part of the neighborhood!” In those moments, I knew that “we” didn’t just refer to those marching. “We” included Bill Dulin, who had worked so hard to make each neighborhood a safe and welcoming place for everyone.