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Importance of spring-cleaning neighborhoods

BY Linda Wilk

Our neighborhood got a spring cleaning this past weekend. It is that time of year when people start to think about being outdoors more, and what a better gift to moms than sprucing up the neighborhood.

It is also a great opportunity to get out, walk up and down your neighborhood streets, get some exercise and meet some neighbors at the same time.

Thanks to several neighbors, some help from a couple street department workers who drove a skid steer and dump truck, along with a donated 40-yard dumpster, the Garfield Neighborhood streets and alleys are once again rid of a whole lot of trash.

As I walked up the alley between Fourth and Fifth streets with Kayla Johnson, the Neighborhood Association Coordinator, I had an opportunity to hear how other neighborhoods were progressing. It was encouraging to hear that about every weekend in the coming weeks, a clean up was planned.

Now, I am not trying to say Marion is trashy, however, let’s be honest, every community can use a sprucing up from time to time.

The care and attention we as neighbors can provide to our streets and alleys is important. It is also important as the weather turns nicer to spend time outside, walking, biking, sitting on your front porch and meeting your neighbors.

You see the better you know your neighbors, the less chance drugs and other crimes will find their way into your neighborhood. Or if they do creep in, the more neighbors are neighborly and are actively walking, the less likely illegal activity will continue.

I know from personal experience. It has been a few years now, however, I still remember the morning we heard gun shots. That was it for me. I was not going to tolerate that in my neighborhood.

As much as I hated the gun shots, it was a blessing, as that was how I met my good friend, and neighbor, Jan. Shortly after the shooting I was out talking with another neighbor next door to where Jan lives, and Jan walked out. We both shared similar concerns about the shooting and decided then we needed to mobilize.

Initially we had several neighbors who walked with us almost nightly. Eventually, it was just Jan and me. Over the years we have continued to walk when we have time, taking trash bags and picking up trash along our route.

Along that route one day we met another neighbor who became a catalyst for the work to improve the park in our neighborhood.

Mike, who had bought properties in our neighborhood and was in the midst of renovating those properties, became an integral part of our park transformation.

A park that through a collaborative effort between neighbors, the City of Marion and funding from a Center for Disease Control grant from my work at Family Service Society, saw a transformation.

I am pleased to say that the park that once had become an eyesore, and a dangerous place for children and families to play, has now become a hot spot for children and families to go.

One neighbor recently told me that on any given day the park is filled with children and their parents, and one time he counted 40 individuals enjoying the amenities of the park.

None of this would have been possible, had I not stepped outside my four walls and walked the neighborhood and made connections. It is not about me, however; I was just a small part of the big picture.

My point is, too often we don’t take that step to see how we might benefit others. Too often we have too many excuses why we don’t want to get involved, or we wait for someone else to start the initiative.

What I would ask, is that everyone who reads this column, see just how they might get involved in their neighborhood. It might be as simple as starting to walk your block and pick up trash. Or it might be as involved if you live in Marion, as calling Kayla Johnson at Marion City Hall – (765) 382-3797– and finding out if you have an active neighborhood association and if you do, joining it. And if you don’t, talking to Kayla about what it would take to get one started.

There are benefits in having an active neighborhood association – among those empowering each other to strive to be better.

It is also a great way to plan projects on ways to improve your neighborhood, which in turn will benefit all as the quality of life improves.

So, next time you have a free moment, put on your walking shoes, grab a trash bag and walk your neighborhood and see just who else you might inspire.