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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Jesse Jackson, president of the Continental Park Neighborhood Association, rebuilt the neighborhood's entryway pillars himself using donations for supplies from residents. “It's about the greater good of all,” he said about improving the area.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Lee Prescott, president of the Frances Slocum Neighborhood Association, works to keep Klug Park welcoming.

Sunday, June 10, 2018 1:00 am

Neighborhood leadership

Association presidents take pride in improving areas

RON SHAWGO | The Journal Gazette

Jesse Jackson knows his neighborhood, Continental Park, down to the brick entrance pillars. He knocked all 10 down with a sledgehammer.

The crumbling pillars represented decay, he said. When property declines, home values follow. So, Jackson took the reins of the dormant neighborhood association. New pillars were built, signs replaced and flowers planted.

“For me, it was an urgent need to do that, because if you don't have someone that's going to look out for the neighborhood, that's going to take care of the neighborhood, the neighborhoods go down,” he said.

Continental Park, on Fort Wayne's southeast side off East Paulding and Hessen Cassel roads, stands out to Palermo Galindo, Fort Wayne's community liaison for neighborhoods. It was resurrected on the faith of someone who took the lead. Galindo points to others – Mount Vernon Park and Frances Slocum among them.

“I always have respect for people who get involved with their neighborhood associations, because nobody gets paid for it,” Galindo said. “It's just their passion to have their neighborhood association drive and move forward.”

Like Continental Park's entryways, many neighborhood associations have a focal point. For Frances Slocum, on the city's near northeast, it is Klug Park. For Mount Vernon Park in the southeast, it is Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center, a nonprofit that was created to help revive the neighborhood.

At Continental Park, the association had disbanded when the former president, in his 80s, suggested Jackson could revive it. Jackson accepted, reached out in the community of 67 houses for money and literally tackled the entryways with a sledgehammer each day before his afternoon work shift. That was less than two years ago, he said.

“It's not just about just taking care of your property and keeping an eye on your property,” Jackson said. “But it's about the greater good of all.”

Lee Prescott, president of the Frances Slocum Neighborhood Association, says he has about 10 people help with issues that arise. There are about 979 houses and businesses in the neighborhood. Many homes are rentals.

Klug Park is off Charlotte Avenue, a few blocks north of Parkview Hospital Randallia. Neighbors worked with the city's park department to celebrate its 100th anniversary a few years ago. Prescott said the latest park project is to plant a tree.

While it's harder to get renters involved in the neighborhood association, more young, first-time homebuyers are moving in, Prescott said. Only recently has the association had all board seats full, thanks to a couple younger homeowners getting involved, he added

“So that's exciting,” Prescott said. “What we're hoping to gain is more of that group.”

It was a concerted effort that caught the attention of residents of Mount Vernon Park, in the East Pettit Avenue-South Anthony Boulevard area.

Javier Mondragon, pastor of Many Nations Church, canvassed the racially diverse neighborhood's 550 houses and found residents concerned about safety and wanting to know their neighbors, said Rena Bradley, neighborhood association president. That resulted in a talk with police, which lead to the formation of a neighborhood association – then headed by Mondragon – and home safety assessments in 2013. Most were landscaping problems, Bradley said.

Since then, crime has been cut in half. There were 33 burglaries in 2013; last year there were 10, Bradley said.

More recently, the neighborhood expressed a need for more recreation and created a playground across from Bridge of Grace at Gaywood Drive and East Fairfax Avenue.

“As soon as someone can see the impact of their work I feel like it's addicting in a way,” Bradley said. “Basically, you get hooked, you know, when you can look up and say, 'Wow, I never thought we would be able to make a playground for our kids rather than waiting for someone to install one. Wow, if I can do that, what else can I do to make a difference in our community.'”

rshawgo@jg.net