Residents of a community in North Charlotte are investing in communication initiatives with a new strategy to strengthen their community. His initial work with bilingual programs shows that there is opportunity for growth for other neighborhoods in the city.
Diane Garris has lived for nearly 40 years in Eastwood Acres, a community located east of Garinger High School. The neighborhood was built five miles north of downtown Charlotte in the 40s and 50s. The community includes red brick family homes, one level in an area that is very rich in history. The oldest structure in the county of Mecklenburg is very close to there – Hezekiah Alexander Homeplace – and the neighborhood adjoins the old Potter’s Road, dating from the 1700’s.
Garris now runs the community association of the community.
“This has always been an area full of pride where the family sense had a high significance. During the years that I remember, probably the 80’s, I started many families not only in this community but in others throughout the city to go out to the suburbs; The properties began to be sold to investors, “said Garris. “As investors bought, more people moved in and I could not do that. This was my home, my community, the place where I was rooted. ”
Sometimes, says Garris, investors have bought houses to use rental properties but have not invested in renovating such properties. At other times, homeowners who are older in age who live on fixed entrances lack the resources to make improvements in their homes.
To strengthen the community, Garris and other community leaders approached City of Charlotte to the Neighborhood Business Services department. They received help through a grant called Neighborhood Matching Grant because the neighborhood did not receive membership dues from a community association. The neighborhood now offers a web page that can be accessed by computer and smartphone. The community now also has a group on Nextdoor, a national social media website that serves as a community tool. It also offers bilingual communication in English and Spanish, including bulletins and signs of the organization. A year ago, the neighborhood organized a day of community cleanup supported by Jesus Ministry, a Latino organization in Charlotte.
“We were able to determine that we had a population that represented 40% of Hispanics in our community and in the surrounding community,” said Garris. “So it was very important for us to try to reach all these people and bring them into the fold to rebuild our community.”
Eastwood Acres and City of Charlotte work with Jesus Ministry on translation programs and revitalization projects. The executive director, Maudia Melendez mentions that the organization helps the Latino community to interact with other communities and helps build a bridge with the government.
“Sometimes the organization that wants to work with the community does not have the resources to translate the materials into Spanish,” says Melendez. “So we serve as one of the organizations that helps translate material. It’s very, very important because people can see what’s going on and connect through that material. ”
“Sometimes the Latino community is disconnected because of the language barrier. Many of the people in the community speak another language or do not speak English. And I think when you do not know what the other person is saying, the material you have in your hands is irrelevant to you because you do not understand. Emotionally and psychologically people are starting to disconnect. So when they come and ask for information, if that information is not in their language that creates a barrier for them. ”
Melendez recommends that other neighborhoods and organizations considering new bilingual programs keep their message short and simple with sixth grade elementary education. She suggests using photos and visual effects and comments that the Latino community is very active on Facebook.
Garris tiene la esperanza que la comunicación y programas de revitalización tendrán un gran impacto en Eastwood Acres. La extensión nueva de Blue Line de Charlotte Area Transit System estará ubicada a solamente media milla del comunidad. El vecindario recientemente se unió a otras 11 organizaciones ubicadas a lo largo de Shamrock Drive con el propósito de obtener una beca de arte público de Arts & Science Council que les ayudara a solidificar su identidad. La asociación comunitaria proporciona información a los residentes sobre programas de asistencia financiera, para mejoras de la vivienda y programas de reducción de plomo. El liderazgo comunitario regularmente explora colaboraciones con otras organizaciones comunitarias y recientemente participaron en un retiro de para líderes comunitarios y sus respectivas mesas directivas.
“Other communities have gone through these challenges and found their way,” Garris said. “That’s what they’re doing now. We are working to find the best for our community, to try to find how to go around the corner and become the desirable place where people want to live again. ”
Translation: Denise Coleman. Photograph by Maudia Meléndez: Joe Cornelius.