Celebration brings community, leaders together

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — In the mid-1950s when Johnnie Jackson moved into Civic Park Apartments with her two sisters, mother and nephew they had a place to call home.
“We had our own bedrooms. It was a beautiful neighborhood,” she said.
Johnnie Jackson, now Johnnie Leach, lived at the apartments until she married.
Leach returned Tuesday to the West End Neighborhood where she once lived to celebrate National Night Out and for a walking tour with city officials.
National Night Out was held Tuesday throughout other communities in Rowan County. It’s a way to bring awareness to crime and drug prevention.
Current residents and those who grew up in the West End gathered at Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church at 500 Partee St. where they were joined by code enforcement officials, Salisbury Police, city representatives and Salisbury Housing Authority to survey issues of immediate concern.
In April the city and Salisbury Housing Authority submitted a federal grant application that if won would be applied toward tearing down and rebuilding Civic Park Apartments, a public housing complex.
The apartment complex was filled with families, Leach said.
“We all looked after each other. We felt safe,” she said.
As Leach grew older she learned to appreciate what she had.
Her family moved in at a time when the apartments were new.
“It has changed. There was pride in it. It was the place to be,” Leach said.
She hopes that if the grant is awarded the apartment complex and the neighborhood will be that way again.
“I believe in community oriented policing. This gives us an opportunity to meet individuals in the community,” said Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins.
This night was a way to learn of any issues the community may have, but “more than that it’s about building relationships,” Collins said.
He said there is always room to build and grow those relationships.
On the walking tour Ida Finger was none too happy to point out areas to the code enforcement officials.
“I appreciate the opportunity and the cooperation from the city officials,” Finger said.
Joyce Smyre said she would love to see the neighborhood “come back to what it was.”
Many, if not all of the areas, code enforcement officials had already been placed on their list.
“That’s on our list,” one of the code enforcement officers said.
They were able to tell the residents who went on the walk-about tour the homes and other structures that they had contacted the owners or the ones that were being cleaned up.
“I think it’s good. They get to see what we see,” said Richard Rogers, whose company Ole Man Lawncare, is contracted with the city to clean up some of the overgrown areas.
City of Salisbury Planning Director Joe Morris said the idea for the walk about was borrowed from Asheville.
“You go into the neighborhoods and spend time with residents. They point out issues of concern,” Morris said.
The Rev. Carolyn Bratton, pastor of Moore’s Chapel said she hope this night inspires parents and residents to become involved in the school meetings and city council meetings.
“It’s a great opportunity for both the city and the community to be able to come together,” Bratton said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.