Awards highlight community pride

Residents and city employees gathered June 22 to celebrate Park Place Civic League's first Neighborhood Pride Awards at a local community center.

For the past few years, the civic league has embarked on what they call the "Visioning and Engagement Process," through meetings, cleanup and beautification projects, and events such as a neighborhood gala.

Rodney Jordan, civic league president and School Board member, kicked off the meeting with a "State of the Healthy Neighborhood" address. He described a healthy neighborhood as one where it makes sense to invest time and money "above the market."

"We want to see our property values grow," Jordan said.

"There is value and wealth that can be created when property values go up," he added.

In his address, Jordan harkened back to his favorite TV program, "The Andy Griffith Show," set in the fictional town of Mayberry where police and the community worked together. "We just want to become a good, old-fashioned neighborhood," Jordan said.

He recognized Jonathan Hernandez, Park Place community resource officer, for going "beyond the call of duty" by supporting the league's initiative, teaching children chess in the neighborhood library and attending civic league meetings.

Jordan stressed the importance of getting to know neighbors so that residents don't have to rely on the government to solve disagreements.

He also reminded them: "In America, you have the right to petition your government to ensure that you have the quality of life you deserve."

Residents learned that the 35th Street business district, in Park Place, is scheduled to host the next "Better Block" in the fall. The first one in Norfolk was in April at the corner of Granby Street and Olney Road. Vacant properties were transformed into pop-up stores, cafes and art galleries. Hundreds of people visited over a two-day period according to a Pilot story.

Frank Duke, the city's director of Planning and Community Development, told the group he needed their input for Better Block and invited the residents to test out their business ideas there. He also praised the residents:

"You guys deserve the credit for the neighborhood you have today."

Duke encouraged the civic league to decide what they wanted their neighborhood to look like in the future as far as zoning.

Before awards were announced, SherardCalloway and Zairre Bryant, two students entering middle school, were given lap tops.

It was a nod to the civic league's commitment to education, Jordan said.

"Healthy neighborhoods also help the schools," he said to the group of about 25.

A trophy for meritorious service was presented to Theodore "Buster" Brevard, recreation supervisor with Park Place Community Center, who is retiring soon after more than 30 years.

Allison Vaughan, a three-year breast cancer survivor, who lives on 26th Street, said she was honored to win the Best Yard award because her garden serves as a sanctuary.

"It is cathartic and awe- inspiring to watch Mother Nature at work and at play. I hope it brings some joy to others as well."

Jennifer Mason,

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