Grassroots program promotes neighborhoods

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALSBURY — Two weeks before BlockWork even occurs, some residents in the 300 block of South Shaver Street are so inspired they’re knocking out projects slated for the Oct. 22 work day.
“BlockWork has surpassed our expectations,” said Ken Weaver, block captain, who answered questions while overseeing tree trimming and painting recently at 301 S. Shaver St.
BlockWork is a grassroots program of the Salisbury Community Appearance Commission, Neighborhood Leaders Alliance and Rowan County United Way. Creators hope the event will bring together community supporters to promote cleaner and safer neighborhoods, one block at a time.
“It’s our most ambitious project yet,” Barbara Perry, chairwoman for the Community Appearance Commission, told City Council last week.
Nominated by Jo Lynn Cash and Mimi Howard, the 300 block of South Shaver was chosen from a pool of applicants for the first BlockWork. Based on the United Way Day of Caring, dozens of volunteers will descend on the area to clean, repair and paint, alongside homeowners and tenants.
The program is supported with grants from the Robertson and Woodson foundations, donations from businesses and materials provided by homeowners, as well as expertise from Lynn Raker and other city planners.
Although the Fulton Heights neighborhood wasn’t chosen, resident held two clean-up days anyway.
“This program not only has initiated needed work in the neighborhood that was selected, but it has had a ripple effect,” Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said.
The 300 block of South Shaver has a few charming, well-maintained houses mixed with neglected properties.
BlockWork presents an opportunity for owners of the better maintained homes to guide and assist others in the stewardship of the block, Perry said.
Declaring the program “a tremendous success,” Weaver said he expects three of nine houses in the block to be painted before BlockWork occurs. Others will receive a fresh coat on Oct. 22.
Landscaping, porch repairs, dead tree removal, sidewalk edging and more are also on tap.
Crew leaders have a plan for each house in the 300 block, as well as some in the 200 block.
When the work days ends, every home will have a picket fence to help define space, create a sense of ownership and prevent tenants from parking on the lawn, Weaver said.
With momentum from BlockWork, one boarded up house on South Shaver Street is slated for demolition and another has been sold for renovation, he said.
BlockWork has created such a buzz in the Brooklyn South Square neighborhood, Weaver said, that people throughout the historic area are sprucing up homes and yards and plan to launch a campaign for lower speed limits and stop signs.
The home at 301 S. Shaver St. received a grant from the Historic Preservation Commission to help pay for improvements related to BlockWork, Perry said.
BlockWork aims to build accountability, she said.
Coincidentally, Oct. 22 is also USA Weekend’s Make a Difference Day, so the city will submit BlockWork to the national competition.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.