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The Ball State Daily

Neighbors share priorities in two south Muncie neighborhoods

Since 2015, the 8twelve Coalition has worked alongside residents, businesses and nonprofits to improve the quality of life in the South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhoods. Coalition Coordinator Darbi Strahle said many of the coalition’s efforts start with meaningful conversations and relationships. 

“Our role as the convener of the coalition is to make sure that the resident voices continue to be elevated, so we're constantly creating spaces for residents to give feedback, input and suggestion into the plan for their neighborhood,” Strahle said. 

In mid-November, neighbors gathered in the basement of Urban Light Community Church to discuss the following priorities: beautification, housing, business development and employment, wellness and education and family support. Strahle invited residents to eat and connect before breaking up into groups focused on priorities neighbors have lifted up during the past year. 

“Action teams help create the annual work plan each year and then meet monthly to move the work plan forward,” Strahle explained. “Action team membership is made up of residents, organization members, and individuals who have subject matter expertise or passion. The action plan is a guide that drives all work residents and organizations collaborate on to benefit the neighborhoods." 

Strahle instucted each group to gather around posters that listed priorities and action items. Armed with permanent markers, residents added or removed items from the lists. Before each group shifted to the next priority, they shared their changes and feedback with the larger gatheirng of neighbors. 

Beautification builds pride 

Strahle said many residents and business owners are focused on beautification, which includes refining the environment to enhance security and structure.  

“They want what everyone wants, which is a beautiful place to live, a safe place to live, a place to raise their family,” Strahle said. “A lot of our action items focus on making the neighborhood a more beautiful place to live.”     

Beautification projects include repairing or adding sidewalks, cleaning up trash, boarding up abandoned houses, and planting trees and plants throughout these neighborhoods. 

Accessibility for all  

Strahle said safe, accessible and lit roadways have been a major topic of conversation. Resident Chris Brown-Terry said he wants the city to repair the intersections and roads on the south side of Muncie.  

“We have a lot of older people or people who are disabled or on crutches and whatnot, and it’s awful to watch them try to get around our neighborhoods with the roads and sidewalks and intersections the way they are, " Brown-Terry said. “There are also a lot of kids who could or should be riding bikes, but the sidewalks are so bad and there are no bike lanes.”  

Daidra Pryor, a retired secretary at IU-Ball Memorial Hospital, has lived near the intersection of the Sixth and Elm streets for the past 23 years. She said the area has made dramatic improvements but needs remain.  

“I would still like to see stop signs put in at the intersection of Sixth and Elm because people run that intersection all the time,” Pryor said. “It’s a little frustrating that the north side of town has stop signs for walkers, but we can’t get them for major intersections.”  

Safe, affordable homes 

Jeannetta Presley, a Thomas Park-Avondale resident, said she is collaborating with students at Ball State to gather blankets and warm clothes for women and children experiencing homelessness. She said the city has overnight shelters for men, but the city does not have as many resources for women and families.   

“The YWCA does intakes during the day, but there is no guarantee that women will get in or they have room,” Presley said. It’s going to take someone freezing to death before this city does anything to help the homeless population.” 

Starhle said the 8twelve helps elevate these concerns to the city and community leaders. The coalition creates space for conversations that celebrate the progress and resources in these neighborhoods.   

“There are a lot of assets in this community, and we don’t look at it as a deficiency but more so how do we come in and elevate the people that live here, the assets that already exists here, the resources that are already here and make this place that people are proud to live,” Strahle said. 

Bonds create change  

Lezlie McCrory, president of the South Central neighborhood association, said she focuses on relationships to connect and create change in the community.   

"We know our neighbors and I encourage other people to know their neighbors, too. We plan neighborhood parties and events to connect people and create fun reasons to show up at a neighbor's house," said McCrory, who moved Muncie when she was a senior at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.   

She has lived in the South Central neighborhood with her family for the past 18 years. Her  neighbors, she said, are “the friendliest of people.” 

“The most important work that our neighborhood association does is having ways for people to connect and feel like they can know each other. Safety is a top concern when people are choosing a place to live and we have found that knowing each other and interacting as neighbors has a tremendous impact on our sense of safety. We build trust as we build community."  

McCroy said that despite their differences, neighbors come together to support each other and improve the community.   

"Given how divided we can be because of race, money, education, politics, language, age, you name it -- it can be easy to find reasons for people in a diverse place to be afraid of each other. But," says McCrory, who is also a pastor at Urban Light Community Church, "we can come to know each other simply as neighbors. We are all just people." 

Spreading awareness to achieve progress 

McCrory said these neighborhoods and the 8twelve need people in power “who listen, and who respond and who value the expertise of the people who live here.” She said relationship building between those with power in the city and residents are vital.  

“Officials and residents alike come to be their better selves through these kinds of interactions and learn from each other's experiences and expertise. So, come and get to know us; spend time with us. The parties we have, the social events, those seem like fluff until you realize how important it is to be heard and known. My neighbors have often said, ‘Oh my gosh, I was able to talk to the mayor,’” McCrory said. “Muncie’s not that big; we all can know each other.”  

Inform Muncie articles are written by students in the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication in a classroom environment with a faculty adviser.

Learn More about the 8twelve Coalition at The Thomas Park/Avondale and South Central neighborhood associations have active Facebook pages that list upcoming events and news.
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