Organizations join residents to fight, crime, blight in Bloomfield, Village Green

Candi Rogers moved to Macon in 2004, relocating from Kentucky to Deeb Drive in the Bloomfield community.

“Sometimes I have tears in my eyes at night,” she said Saturday afternoon. “I moved here to be safe and it’s not safe.”

Rogers, 50, who is known as “Grandma” on her street, said every day something about her neighborhood concerns her.

The gunshots, or the blatant drug activity, or the “guard dogs” that she says roam her block unsupervised, frightening children.

Rogers said many of her friends, despite growing up in south Macon, have left the community because of an increase in home burglaries and other property crime.

“I’m pretty much the only one still here. We shouldn’t have to move out of our neighborhood because of crime,” she said. “We can do something about it.”

Rogers signed up for Project Unity.

The project’s mission statement reads: “We are working together to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the Bloomfield and Village Green neighborhoods. In order for this grassroots initiative to be successful, we need for you and your neighbors to join us.”

More than 200 residents visited Tremont Temple Baptist Church on Bloomfield Road on Saturday for the new project’s kick-off.

The event was sponsored by several community groups and city agencies, including Macon Regional CrimeStoppers, the Macon-Bibb County NAACP, the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, the Macon Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bibb County school system.

“We’re going into different communities to identify people and put them in charge of their neighborhoods. This kick-off is one of many,” said Al Tillman, president of the local NAACP branch.

New volunteers were asked to leave their contact information with the project’s organizers and to prioritize community tasks within the categories of public safety, health, education, neighborhood cleanups, dilapidated properties, youth and economic opportunity.

Rogers said the ramshackle houses must go.

She worries they are being used as shelter for drug dealers, drug users and runaway teenagers.

She also plans to petition for additional bus routes to her community, where currently there is one.

“I hope it stays positive. Don’t let it fail,” Rogers said of the neighborhood organizing project. ”I just want a better neighborhood.”

CrimeStoppers Chairman Warren Selby said the grass-roots effort will focus on various aspects of cleanup — removing litter, graffiti and the vacant structures — in order to thwart crime and beautify the area.

Empty, run-down houses that are a breeding ground for drug activity and arson, he said, are a first concern for the city.

“The city has received a $3 million grant to remove abandoned homes and we’d certainly like some of the residents of this community to be able to take direct advantage,” Selby said, citing new federal funds.

“You should have the same availability to resources no matter what part of town you live in. There really seems to be an interest among residents in the Bloomfield and Village Green neighborhood to get this going,” he said.

The event featured various highlights for children, including bike giveaways and golf lessons with Macon City Councilman James Timley.

Timley and Sam Macfie, a Macon businessman, participate in the Macon Golf for Kids program, which provides free golf instruction to local youth.

The program includes a weekend clinic for children who live in Davis Homes and utilizes a driving range adjacent to Tremont Temple. Saturday, about 90 kids — many first-time golfers — practiced the sport using irons funded by a United States Golf Association grant, which provided for 10 bags of clubs, Macfie said.

“Golf is such an interesting game because it emphasizes so many disciplines that one needs to be a good golfer,” Timley said. “Social skills, mental skills, patience.”

Charissia Hill, a 12-year-old who goes to the golf course with her father sometimes, said she appreciated Timley’s instruction on new ways to grip the club.

She said golf is an activity she would like to pursue in high school as a team sport.

“It’s fun. It teaches me something. It won’t keep me bored,” the Bloomfield resident said.

She said she also thinks Project Unity should try to incorporate golf into each of its community activities.

“Let all of the young folks come together and teach each other how to play and talk positive things,” Hill said. “That’s good.”

The Rev. James Bumpus of Tremont Temple said he was glad to host the kick-off and his church will be active in the project.

“When we bought the church property back in 2001, we envisioned being able to open it up to the public just like this,” he said. “This has been an awesome event, a great start to cleaning up Bloomfield. It takes all of us working together.”

For more information on Project Unity, call Pam Lightsey at 621-2603.