More than 70 neighborhood residents, volunteers, and visitors gathered on a sunny Saturday morning in the historic Grier Heights neighborhood to celebrate the legacy of the late Jonathan Belton. Mr. Belton served as the first director of the Grier Heights Community Center before his passing in December 2015. The event highlighted the importance of health, wellness, and active transportation (in this case, walking) in building a more sustainable future for the neighborhood.
The Sustain Charlotte Community Corps (SCCC) partnered with the Grier Heights Neighborhood Improvement Organization to organize a walk to honor Mr. Belton while also introducing event participants to the incredibly rich history of Grier Heights. The event kicked off at 10:00 a.m. with a 1.5 mile guided walk throughout the community. Along the way, volunteers pointed out signs that told the stories of several of Grier Heights' landmarks.
What an incredible gathering of people of all backgrounds celebrating the legacy of a man who meant so much to this neighborhood! Mr. Belton dedicated his life to service of Grier Heights. The neighborhood bears a proud history but has suffered in recent decades from high rates of household poverty, crime, and low educational attainment. But thanks to the hard work of Mr. Belton and other dedicated neighborhood leaders, the community is taking action to reverse that trend. They have invested their time and passion to provide everyone in the neighborhood a place to gather, learn, and work together towards a brighter vision for the community. Grier Heights renovated the old neighborhood school and opened it as Grier Heights' first community center in September 2015.
During Saturday's event, the neighborhood raised $1,175 in donations from residents and walk participants to support future community activities. Grier Heights Community Center Director Gloria Green spoke highly of the work done by the SCCC volunteers and other planning partners: "I would like to thank each of your for all you did to make our event on Saturday a great success. Many have come to me and said what a wonderful time they had and it’s because of your guidance and leadership. You are the best team and I’m grateful to have you in the center. Jonathan’s family called to say THANK YOU for all you do to honor him."
Many new and long-time residents enjoyed a day of community-based activities.
Lauren Barbee, one of the SCCC's Health & Wellness team leaders said, "It truly was inspiring to see what a community should look like and the relationships that have been built from generation to generation. To continue to be part of Grier Heights Community and the history of the neighborhood, our team will continue to build out a pathway to leverage these relationships and be available to continue building friendships and community."
Volunteers arrived early Saturday morning to set up the walk signs...
...and prepare healthy snacks for walk participants!
Sustain Charlotte's table at the event featured education about active transportation including how to navigate the neighborhood and city safely by bicycle, information about the CATS 2030 Transit Corridor Plan, and how to be a safe pedestrian. We also provided a wellness activity inviting kids to create a creative and artistic snack from healthy ingredients like strawberries, grapes, and bananas.
Sustain Charlotte's Community Corps volunteers are working intensively with Grier Heights' leadership on several initiatives during 2016 that the neighborhood has identified as sustainability priorities. Grier Heights has been engaged in Sustain Charlotte's Sustainable Neighborhoods Program since 2012 when we worked together to create a sustainable vision plan for the neighborhood.
Sustain Charlotte Community Corps and Grier Heights residents met for months to plan the event.
What's next for the Sustain Charlotte Community Corps in Grier Heights? Our Technology team is about to partner on an installation of donated laptop computers so residents will be able to access digital information and training! Our Community Beautification team is working with residents to plan improvements to a community garden and discussing other innovative solutions to bring fresh food to the neighborhood. Stay tuned for updates!
Sustain Charlotte's work with the Grier Heights neighborhood is funded by project grants from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation, Duke Energy Foundation, and Wells Fargo.