A group of area pastors are taking seriously the old African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and are kicking off Saturday afternoon a new initiative to transform the Eden Park neighborhood.
Led by the Rev. Mary Moss and her 25-member Louisiana Area Women in Ministry, five Eden Park-area churches will host services at 2 p.m. Saturday to launch “The Village Project.” The theme of the kickoff sermons is “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The group also is beginning to renovate a dilapidated home at 765 N. Acadian Thruway into a resource center that will provide educational services, such as tutoring and parenting workshops, and be a place to link residents with church and government resources.
“At one time, this was a thriving community with stores and restaurants, barbershops, music shops that were black-owned and now no longer exist,” Moss said.
Moss defines the Eden Park community as a geographical area bordered by Florida Boulevard on the south, Choctaw Drive on the north, Acadian Thruway on the west and Foster Drive on the east. There are about 40 churches in the neighborhood, Moss said.
Second Baptist Church with the Rev. Leo Cyrus, Donaldson Chapel with Rev. Tommie Gipson, Hughes Memorial United Methodist Chapel with Rev. Connie Saizon, Belfair Baptist Church with Rev. Jon D. Bennett, and Elm Grove Baptist with Rev. Errol Domingue are cooperating and hosting kickoff gatherings Saturday afternoon.
“We have linked arms with the churches to create a culture of caring — a village — of one helping the other, caring for the other, supporting the other,” Moss said. “We are also going to be advocates for the people who have no voice with the school district and when they are at the table they don’t know what to say.”
On Tuesday, Cecil Clark, a minister at New Pilgrim Baptist and owner of Clark’s Flooring and Interiors, had some men mowing the tall grass surrounding the house, clipping bushes and getting ready to work on the building itself.
“It looks worse than the condition it is in,” Clark said. “It is weather-beaten on the outside but it is a solid structure.”
The three-bedroom house’s inside was littered with trash, old clothes and liquor bottles.
The toilets had been torn out of both bathrooms. When Moss and several women from Elm Grove Baptist went inside, they were shocked to find children’s clothing and a smelly child’s training toilet.
“It’s obvious a family has been living in here,” declared Gail Grover, who is on Moss’s board of directors and attends Shiloh Missionary Baptist. “This is an indication we need to roll up our sleeves.”
“We have a lot of homeless people and a lot of poverty-stricken people,” said Yvonne Williams. “It’s not because they lack the motivation to better themselves, it’s just that there is nothing here to help them.
“This will be a resource center if you desire to come here,” she said.
Diane Fabre added, “God made all people equal and there is potential in each of us. This project is to help people tap into their potential.”
Cecil Jackson lives down the street and said the neighborhood is “a skeleton” compared to what it was because so many homes had been torn down.
“I believe this will have a big impact,” Jackson said.
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