When Brent Bowles, a seven-year resident in Homewood Park West, told a neighbor he wanted to start a Crime Watch and shared some of his ideas, the neighbor said “It can’t be done….No way you’ll get this many people to agree to anything.” But Brent didn’t take no for an answer, and he quickly found some community-based assets (Next Door App to invite neighbors to and a local church to host a neighborhood meeting) to help him get started.
Brent explained, “The neighborhood was being dragged down by poor curb appeal and lack of safety.” So Brent worked with his neighbors to develop a “Neighborhood Yard of the Month” program to showcase the well-kept lawns and to emphasize beautification efforts, with recognition provided by a yard sign, an article in the neighborhood newsletter, and a restaurant gift certificate from their neighbor, the International Marketplace Coalition. In addition, getting outside, knocking on doors, being friendly and politely asking “Can we help you?” “Are you lost?” helped drive out those involved in illicit activities. Working with neighbors and reaching out to and building relationships with City government staff, elected officials, and nearby neighborhoods, they shut down a petition to put a used car lot in the neighborhood and forged bonds among multiple neighborhoods, expanding opportunities for collaboration in the future.
In 2017, Mary Chalmers, Neighborhood Development Specialist (NDS) at INRC, encouraged Brent to share their neighborhood story at Neighbor Power Indy 2017. For Brent, doing such a presentation and creating a PowerPoint were new experiences. With some guidance from the NDS and participation in an INRC presentation training, Brent and a neighbor put together a powerful presentation. The feedback and questions indicated that others were interested in developing similar opportunities for their neighborhoods. For Brent, he noted, “I’ve never done that before …. Now I am much more confident about how to do it.”
When asked to comment on what he has learned through this ongoing journey with his neighborhood, he commented, “The City, the MAC, IMPD, businesses – everyone has those resources, but you have to do the footwork to see what is applicable to your neighborhood.” As Brent has seen first hand, finding and focusing on Asset Based Community Development can lead to many unexpected opportunities and benefits. Brent said his main goal in getting involved was to maintain property values and protect the investment in his house, but along the way he found new friends, and together they have created a more vibrant community.
Brent’s three “Take Aways” from his experience with starting a neighborhood association:
- Foster collaboration
- Look around and mobilize existing (and local) assets
Support grass roots leadership skills: It’s about “A neighborhood working together, not a dictatorship."
Shirley Larner grew up on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis on Tacoma Avenue. Her fond memories of the community fuel her fire to create and support efforts that positively engage her neighborhood and the surrounding residents and communities.
As the acting President of the Westminster/St. Philip Neri Neighborhood Association, previously known as TEAR United, Shirley looks beyond what many would see as debilitating issues. Instead, she sees opportunities to connect and engage with neighbors and businesses in the community nestled between Michigan, Rural, Washington, and Beville. She and her husband, Tim, have dedicated long hours to beautification efforts and increasing pride in the community. Shirley was instrumental in planning Neighborhood Cleanups and arranging for IMPD presence during a mobile roll call right on Tacoma Avenue.
On September 23, Shirley participated in the Arsenal 5K Run and Walk to raise money for college scholarships for area seniors and support extracurricular clubs at Arsenal Technical High School. Shirley is passionate about putting her time and energy into the work that lifts and defines the entire community.
When Shirley met Ashlee Weaver of INRC in January 2017, she was just stepping into her role of re-engaging the community. Through meetings, coaching, and technical assistance, INRC has supported Shirley’s efforts. Ashlee designed flyers in English and Spanish to assist in the vision of an inclusive neighborhood. Ashlee also connected Shirley with other organizations in the area, including the Englewood Community Development Corporation. The Westminster/St. Philip Neri Neighborhood Association now meets regularly on the first Monday of the month, at Englewood Christian Church, from 5:00-5:30pm.
We at INRC are so proud of Shirley’s efforts and look forward to a successful and vibrant future for the Westminster/St. Philip Neri community!