Good News is Coming
Sitting among friends made in the past year, I was struck by the positivity springing forth from each of these wonderful people. A nonprofit worker, a lieutenant of the Abilene Police Department, a community pastor, a representative from a local business, and a few long-time residents had gathered around a table at the Alameda Community Center. And it was time to talk. The meeting centered around the rousing success of the summer's kickoff event. The Alameda Summer Slam had begun the previous weekend, and it would be hard to imagine it going any better: Delicious food cooked by a neighborhood resident who operates the Fat Jaws food truck to the positive tunes blared from the speakers borrowed from Pioneer Drive Baptist Church and DJed by House of Faith's Denise Davidson. A petting zoo put on by May Farms, a local biker letting kids feel what it's like to sit on a motorcycle, and police officers allowing kids to be in charge of the lights and sirens of their police car. Kids getting their face painted, painting their own crafts, and rollicking through a bouncy air-castle. The evening was phenomenal.
Beyond recounting the overall experience of the night, though, our small collective around the table spoke of the change we had all seen in the neighborhood. Whether we had been there for several decades or just a few months, each person seated in our group marveled at the visible changes in the neighborhood that was once derisively known as "the four-way." These are just a few of the reasons for optimism that we shared that evening.
The kind folks from May Farms told several of those gathered that the children of the neighborhood were the most respectful they'd encountered in a long time, and it was a joy to have such polite and well-behaved kiddos playing with and feeding their animals. Such a change is very encouraging, especially to those people who have invested years of time and energy into the children of Alameda.
For several years, a group of concerned residents from Alameda have come together with partners to host neighborhood clean-ups in both the fall and spring. As their efforts have expanded and their numbers have grown, they've found the job to be smaller and smaller. We believe part of this has to do with hauling off the large garbage items that had been around for years early in the process, but another aspect of the lessening of the work is that as the neighborhood becomes cleaner, the neighbors have been taking notice and working to keep the community clean in between events. This hypothesis gained some steam at the Connecting Caring Communities craft table.
Kids were offered the chance to paint signs for their homes or yards as a craft. The twist, inspired by CCC Executive Director and resident artist Lori Thornton, was that each sign already had "Alameda" painted on it. The young artists were then given instructions to paint a word that described their community above "Alameda." Some kids painted "fun" or "safe," others chose "friendly" or "home." Some ignored the instructions completely and just painted a pretty picture, which was fine, too. But a couple of kids asked us if they could paint "Clean Alameda" as their idea of their neighborhood. We thought that was really telling.
Finally, a story from two of the women who work in the neighborhood. For a few months now, the Community Center's fence next to South 7th has been marred by blown trash that gets stuck on the chain links. It would pile up for a while before someone would decide to deal with it. The mystery: Who had been cleaning the fence? Denise was fairly certain that it was Erica Currie, who was working in the community center a few days a week. Erica thought it was Denise. Turns out it was neither. Erica looked out the window one day to see a grandmother who lived near the community center walking across the property with several grandkids in tow. Armed with trash bags, they painstakingly removed each plastic bag and food wrapper from the fence, and placed them into their bags before walking home.
One of the reasons I love my job is that I am constantly reminded that there is good all around me. I did not bring good to Alameda, and neither did CCC. We simply joined in with the good already there, and did our best to help amplify that good. I'm proud of the work I do in Alameda, but I will never make the same difference as local residents choosing to be good neighbors will make. A neighborhood that was looked down on for many years is definitely on the upswing, and the Alameda community can take pride in their hard work to transform their streets into what they want them to be. I'm thankful to be working alongside such a community and such good neighbors.