JACKSON – More than 100 volunteers descended on Greenview Drive, right next to St. Therese Parish on Saturday, March 15, to start tearing down and building up. They were from at least three different denominations as well as Habitat for Humanity and their goal was to start a revitalization for the street and surrounding area.
Kerryn de Verteuil, a Knight of Columbus at St. Therese, organized volunteers from his parish. “We want to remove the blight from South Jackson,” he said. “We’re going to have homeowners here who care about their community. Our land value is going to go up. We’re going to have new people to come to our church and school,” he said.
Several homes on Greenview Drive were abandoned and beyond repair. Habitat was able to purchase these properties and get permits to tear them down and make the street safer and cleaner. While they were at it, organizers decided to clean up the rest of the block as well. Habitat executives said the area has great potential for revitalization.
“You don’t often see a street as blighted as Greenview Drive have such strong community assets and anchors. These anchors include St. Therese Church and School, Peeples Middle School, Key Elementary, the Richard Wright Library, McDowell Road, proximity to the JSU e-Center, close access to I-20, and the stable home ownership on Treehaven Street,” explained Cindy Griffin, executive director of Habitat’s Mississippi Capital Area. “By revitalizing Greenview Drive, we can create an economic engine in South Jackson. More importantly, though, we can change lives – for the families who currently live there and for potential homeowners.
“The dream of those who came together Saturday on Greenview Drive, as well as others who support this work, is that the demolition and clean-up on March 15 will be a catalyst for revitalization of the entire street,” Griffin said.
The project came about thanks in part to an ecumenical effort on the part of the South Jackson Ministerial Association/Alliance, a group of churches who work together to improve their communities.
A member of that group met with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade, who brought in even more churches. Wanda McCurdy with the Billy Graham group said her organization comes into a community to host a crusade with as many churches as may be interested. Before the actual crusade, the group likes to do some sort of service work. This project was just the right fit.
“It was just such a rewarding thing for me and our group to see what a big difference we could make just lending a hand,” she said.
The actual demolition was handled by a contractor. The volunteers took to the other properties with heavy lawn equipment, rakes, shovels and lots and lots of trash bags. Since the street is close to at least three schools one of the goals was to pick up anything that might pose a threat to the kids walking to and from school including glass, exposed wires and other trash.
The cleanup was a first step, but Habitat is hoping individuals, churches, businesses or civic groups will step up to start planning the revitalization portion of the project.