Saundra Hayes, a community organizer in the Manheim Park neighborhood, recently shared these eloquent thoughts about murders that took place during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend:

“Can any one of us truly make sense of such an utterly senseless transgression? And what scars, if any, do these fatal bullets that have once again left grieving victims leave on our community’s image?                         

This kind of behavior rips the fabric of our neighborhoods and our sense of community.  But homicide is not an indictment of our community or the people who live in our community, because the urban core is home to a lot of warm, wonderful, law-abiding people.

The media has reported several interviews with neighbors near where the incident occurred who said that arguing was heard coming from the home and gunfire could be heard, but no one called the police.

Watchfulness, observation, caring about the welfare of your neighbor and calling the police when an altercation is taking place are the main weapons communities have in our own fight against crime. Taking back control of our neighborhoods through focused and diligent teamwork can change a lot – and that should never be forgotten.

As a community, what can we do, where do we start, and who, if any one, has the answers? Let’s talk about preventive measures, starting with an honest look at the root causes of the senseless, violent crime that we are seeing much too often, especially among our youth. Statistics show that social problems such as child abuse, the misuse of drugs and alcohol, mental illness, poor parenting, lack of love, nurturing and education and unemployment are often associated with criminal activity.  So, when communities and organized neighborhood associations, partners and stakeholders all work together to reduce and thwart crime, we are without doubt creating healthy communities that are safer, cleaner and sustainable in many ways.”

Thanks, Saundra. We couldn’t agree more.

We are working hard every day to help build a brighter and cleaner community that our residents are proud to live, work and play.

This past weekend the Historic Manheim Park Neighborhood Association hosted its semi-annual Neighborhood Cleanup. The cleanup was followed by a community cookout. Manheim Park residents were joined by over 25 members of the Hyde Park neighborhood, Rockhill neighborhoods, University of Kansas students and members of the Immanuel Lutheran Church.

As summer approaches, residents in Manheim Park took action to improve and beautify their neighborhood by cleaning up vacant lots, removing tires and planting in the neighborhood community garden. The Green Impact Zone worked in partnership with Kansas City, Mo., Neighborhood Housing Services to provide dumpsters for the neighborhood clean-up event.

Helping people and neighborhoods build their own capacity to make a difference is a key strategy in the Green Impact Zone. Historic Manheim Park plans to have their next neighborhood clean-up in July 2010.

As of April 14, the Green Impact Zone is lagging a little behind the national average in the number of census forms that have been mailed back. The national average is 67 percent, and our neighborhoods range from 54 to 64 percent return rates. Have you mailed your census form yet? If not, please do so right away. An accurate count will help people and neighborhoods in the zone receive the services, funding and representation we’re entitled to over the next 10 years.

If you need help completing the census form, contact your community ombudsman today. Call 816-936-8803.

Participation rates as of 4/14/10:

  • Census Tract 64: 58%
    (Bounded by Troost, 39th Street, Woodland and 43rd Street; includes parts of the Manheim Park and Ivanhoe neighborhoods)
  • Census Tract 62: 58%
    (Bounded by Woodland, 39th Street, Prospect and 43rd Street; includes part of the Ivanhoe neighborhood)
  • Census Tract 63: 54%
    (Bounded by Troost, 43rd Street, Prospect, Emanuel Cleaver and Volker; includes parts of the Manheim Park and Ivanhoe neighborhoods)
  • Census Tract 75: 59%
    (Bounded by Troost, Volker, Woodland and 55th Street; includes parts of the Troostwood and Blue Hills neighborhoods)
  • Census Tract 76: 64%
    (Bounded by Woodland, Swope Parkway, Prospect and 55th Street; includes part of the Blue Hills neighborhood)
  • Census Tract 77: 58%
    (Bounded by Prospect, Swope Parkway and 55th Street; includes part of the Town Fork Creek neighborhood)

Up-to-date participation rates by city, county, state or zip code are available on the 2010 Census Web site at www.2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map.

If you already have filled out your survey, please encourage your friends and family to do so as well.

The Green Impact Zone encompasses five neighborhoods – Ivanhoe, Blue Hills, Manheim, Troostwood and Town Fork Creek. We work closely with the neighborhood organizations in each of these communities. These neighborhood organizations are one of the great strengths of the Green Impact Zone, and by improving their capacity to bring about positive change we can help make all of our neighborhoods stronger.

Each neighborhood has received capacity building funds. The neighborhood leaders have worked together to determine how to divide the funds amongst the neighborhoods. Now it’s time for each neighborhood to come up with a plan for how they would use the money.  It has been interesting to hear of all of the different ideas – from funding activities that bring people together to improving communications and more.

What would you do? If you were given seed money to build your neighborhood’s capacity and develop sustainable initiatives, what kinds of projects would you recommend?