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Group hopes to foster change in Salisbury neighborhoods

Organizers of a Wednesday community meeting hope it will spawn others to affect change in their own neighborhods. The meeting, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Miller Recreation Center, is hosted by West End Community Organization, West End Pride Organization and The Chamber (not the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce).
Miller Recreation is located at 1402 W. Bank St.
Ken Hardin, a member of The Chamber group, has become one of the most vocal about crime in the West End. He said this meeting is not just for West End residents but for anyone in Salisbury who is concerned with their neighborhood.
“We, at first, wanted it to be to address crime in the West End, but then we said crime impacts everybody,” he said.
Speakers include Master Trooper Clee Atkinson Jr. and Alex Clark, a motivational speaker.
Atkinson, who will talk about recognizing gang activity, serves on the Executive Security Team for Gov. Pat McCrory.
He has provided hours of education at conferences and workshops on gang and terrorism awareness, homeland security and suicide bombing. In 2012, Atkinson served as the SBI field liaison officer on gangs and terrorism.
Clark, a former drug dealer and federal inmate, will discuss “Getting Out and Staying Out of the Drug Life.”
Clark said he hopes to educate people about consequences.
“I have come to learn the average citizen is totally oblivious to how the federal system works. There’s a ripple effect,” he said.
Clark said when he was incarcerated in 1996, he missed a lot including watching his three children grow up. His son died of leukemia while Clark was in prison.
“It’s really about a choice. I didn’t leave anything in prison to go back and get,” he said.
Clark said people, particularly teens, don’t see the cost that will come from their actions.
“Freedom is priceless whenever you lose it because of some choices, and at the end of the day it came down to some choices I made,” he said.
There will also be an open forum to discuss community concerns and a chance to complete a survey to help create a community agenda.
“Once we get this data compiled and analyzed we will meet again in 90 days, six months. one year,” Hardin said.
The plan is to take the information to implement changes in the respective communities.
“Everybody has it within themselves to be a leader. If you see it, do it,” he said.
Hardin said everyone wants the same thing. He said he’s had conversations with Tea Party members, county commissioners and other leaders.
“We’ve got to put down this idea that we can’t work together,” he said.
Hardin said it’s important for the organizers that residents have the opportunity to discuss their concerns.
He recalled a community forum in May that the city sponsored that Hardin said didn’t allow citizens adequate time to voice their concerns. He said organizers want to make sure there is plenty of time.

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