BlockWork brings fresh paint, trees and more to Park Avenue

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 27, 2013

SALISBURY — The houses in the 700 and 800 block of East Franklin Street have been there since the early 1900s — built in the shadow of Kesler Mill, the ruins of which are still visible beyond the trees.
Jon Cerny didn’t want to focus on those, standing on East Franklin early Saturday afternoon.
His attention was on a flock of red-shirted volunteers, busily working around the houses between Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and North Green Street.
Some wielded shovels and picks, opening up holes for new trees and shrubs.
Others rolled fresh gray sealing paint onto a front porch, to complement new red paint on the brick foundation.
And a crew of roofers from Medina Construction, volunteering their time for the day, scraped a double layer of worn-out shingles from the roof of a house, preparing to put a new roof on.
This small stretch in the Park Avenue neighborhood was chosen for the third annual BlockWork project.
Cerny, chairman of Salisbury’s Community Appearance Commission, said this street was chosen, out of all those considered, because of its unique nature:
A part of the community with a mix of owners and renters.
A neighborhood with visible needs and challenges.
A community that still has a lot of life in it.
“We want places that are typically neglected” by other community redevelopment efforts, Cerny said.
With dead-end streets, and what he called “a lot of broken synapses” — not as much connection to the roads and homes nearby — Cerny said this was a good candidate for BlockWorks.
And the volunteers got to work.
It’s part of national Make a Difference Day, an event created to encourage people to help improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods.
Part of it is fixing up and sprucing up the neighborhood, no matter how small.
Painting mailboxes. Replacing a wobbly, unsafe porch railing with a sturdy new one. Planting willow oaks, and removing invasive plants from lots.
And, at the head of the street, creating art.
Students from Peter Goff’s class at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College were using metal and wire to create sculptures of ducks in flight.
The effect is that a line of ducks appears to be swooping low into the neighborhood.
Jasmine Lasley, first semester student at RCCC, said she didn’t know she’d be helping with community art when she signed up for the class.
“I like it. It’s just making something people are going to see,” Lasley said.
At George Trueblood’s home in the 700 block, a group of volunteers got rid of rotten landscape timbers, put in new flowers and repainted the brick and concrete trim.
“It looks great,” Trueblood said. “It’s a big change, I’m serious.”
He watched the volunteers finish their work, and posed for a picture with them.
“I wish I was able to help, but my health’s not what it once was,” Trueblood said. “This is a blessing, I can tell you.”
Evelyn Medina, of Medina Construction, said her company wanted to pitch in after seeing firsthand how much help people needed.
“We’re always trying to find a way to pay it forward,” she said.
Organizers of the event said they have seen homes in various places around Salisbury where leaking roofs are a problem — difficult, if not impossible, for poor, elderly or disabled homeowners to fix.
“This is one area where it’s easy for us,” Medina said. “When you’re able to volunteer with something that you already know how to do,” it’s easy to add value to a community.
Other professionals, including carpenters and contractors, volunteered their time and tools.
For Jennifer Compton and Yeimy Zelaya, students at Rowan Early College High School, BlockWork was a chance to help out while having fun.
Both said they’re members of the Junior Civitans and heard about the event from students who were involved last year.
“I love seeing all the kids running around and playing. It feels like we’re doing more than painting mailboxes,” Compton said.
Those neighborhood kids are one of the reasons East Franklin was chosen.
Lynn Raker, urban design planner for the city of Salisbury, said the block is about a half-and-half mix of owners and renters.
“The whole intent when we started … was to get the neighborhoods more active and working together,” Raker said.
“As neighbors help neighbors, it becomes contagious,” she said.
Lou Manning, president of the Park Avenue Redevelopment Corporation, said he was especially impressed with the young volunteers who turned out, in addition to city staff, elected officials and Salisbury residents.
“All you’ve got to do is look around here. … We’re interested in having not talkers, but doers,” Manning said.
“We want to bring value and dignity back to the neighborhood,” Cerny said.
And, he said, the good that got done Saturday will keep on going beyond that one block, and one afternoon.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.