DECATUR – Neighborhood groups and churches took advantage of a gorgeous, breezy early fall day to promote their causes and encourage young people to clean up the city.
Sandy Cole, a member of Beautify Decatur, a branch of Grow Decatur, was signing up youngsters to spruce up their surroundings. She and her cohort, Millikin University freshman Bree Bagley, handed out tickets for free concession food in exchange for their pledges to spend October picking up trash on their blocks.
“The team that wins for the most clean block will win bicycles and Walmart gift cards,” Bagley said.
At the Coalition of Neighborhood Organizations street festival, held in Central Park on Saturday, Sue Lawson, the group's president, said the object of the project is to get young people to teach the adults to keep the their blocks clean.
Each team of two youngsters will be asked to patrol one block, both sides of the street, from the front of the buildings to the curb.
Judges will inspect the blocks on the program list seven times during the month. The team that does the best job will be awarded the prizes at a gathering at the end of the month in Torrence Park.
Lawson said the Saturday festival was moved this year from its customary spring date to the fall because there have been weather issues in the past. The first street festival in 2009 was postponed because of rain.
She was pleased with the turnout Saturday, especially considering that there were many other events scheduled the same day.
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Lawson said she was especially glad to see several new groups participating this year, including churches.
“We want to get more churches involved in the neighborhoods,” Lawson said.
Mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe and city council members Pat McDaniel and Jerry Dawson were on hand. Representatives from Richland Community College were also in attendance.
St. Peter AME Church's Golden Age Ministry had a table filled with crafts such as miniature birdhouses, as well as plaques and keychains featuring inspirational sayings.
James Collier said the ministry, open to seniors 55 and older, supports shut-ins at the veterans hospital in Danville, local nursing homes and Dove Inc. domestic violence shelter.
“We're a very active group,” Collier said. “We enjoy being together on Mondays.”
Francie Johnson, a CONO board member, said the street festival owed its origin to a conference that was held several years ago.
“Every year we go to a regional conference in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee or Kentucky,” Johnson said. “We were at a conference in Indiana. They had a street festival. We thought we could do that here.
“It just gets everybody in the city familiar with neighborhoods and that there are neighborhood organizations.”