Second in a series
In October, the InterNeighborhood Council recognized 25 Durham County residents as Neighborhood Heroes, honoring such good deeds as helping the handicapped, organizing a Neighborhood Watch and campaigning for worthy causes.
“It is really important to recognize people who put a lot of effort into their neighborhoods, and never get any recognition,” council President John Martin said.
The awards were bestowed before a packed house at Motorco, and revived an INC tradition after a three-year lapse. Former INC presidents Bill Anderson and Tom Miller spoke briefly about each recipient, and today The Durham News continues sharing what they had to say with readers. Barker French – Trinity Park
Bill Anderson: In the nearly two decades you’ve lived in Trinity Park, you’ve served twice on the neighborhood’s board of directors. First from the mid to late 1990s, and more recently from 2007-2009.
Barker, it’s a well known fact to many of us, that you’ve been a constant steward for helping to make ALL of Durham’s communities a better place to live through your work with the Durham Roundtable (which you chaired several years ago) and through your membership with the Durham Crime Cabinet and Judicial Advocates.
Barker’s contributions to Trinity Park, are equally as exemplary. You were an important liaison between the neighborhood and Duke University and were instrumental in building a relationship between the two entities. Ultimately that led to Duke’s purchase of approximately a dozen homes in Trinity Park that were being used as defacto fraternities. Over the years, Barker also helped the neighborhood keep a keen eye on in-town commercial development to ensure that it was compatible with the interests of the neighborhood and didn’t affect the quality of life in an adverse way.
Barker has been a willing and tireless volunteer for numerous Trinity Park fundraisers and festivities over the years. The “informal TP task force” that met on Monday evening agreed that Barker’s involvement with broader community activities and organizations has had a significant impact on the neighborhood, and has benefited not just Trinity Park, but our neighboring communities as well.
Barker we all know that’s a very abbreviated resume of all the pots you have your hands in, but tonight on behalf of that greater community we’d like to thank you. In addition to that thanks, and perhaps even more meaningful to you personally, your neighborhood has declared you one of the Heroes of Trinity Park for 2012! Congratulations, Barker.Cavett French – Trinity Park
Just what makes a patch of ground a neighborhood is often very difficult to articulate. By most it is a thing that is felt, not thought of or reduced to words. But there are people who do actually think hard on what gives their neighborhood its special character. Cavett French of Trinity Park is such a person. Ask her what makes her neighborhood so special to her and the ready answer will be trees. Street trees, willow oaks arranged in colonnades, canopy trees, a legacy of trees.
After a many-year hiatus, the Trinity Park tree committee was re-organized in the spring 2003 with Cavett serving as committee chair. From its re-inception, the committee was incredibly active and firmly committed to working with the city’s urban forestry department to restore Trinity Park’s dwindling tree canopy. Cavett worked with three different urban forestry managers during her seven-year tenure as committee chair. In the first year, the committee oversaw the planting of 22 new trees in the neighborhood. By April 2006, 85 new trees had been planted in Trinity Park. And now, after almost 10 years of stewardship, the tree committee, with Cavett as involved as ever, has seen between 400 and 500 new trees added to the neighborhood. And her work hasn’t been limited just to Trinity Park, her advocacy helped wring $200,000 worth of “shovel-ready” trees and tree planting for Durham out of the 2009-10 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
In 2007 she calmed neighborhood tensions with Duke Energy after their inappropriate cutting of many city trees in the northern part of the neighborhood. Cavett organized neighbors in a way that eased anger yet allowed them to show the power giant the neighborhood’s firm commitment to one of its greatest assets.
But trees don’t tell the whole story; Cavett researches and writes neighborhood history. She works on the home tour. She tends the gardens in the park. She manages Barker. For all of this, Cavett French is a worthy neighborhood hero.Melissa Newsome – Milan Woods
Bill Anderson: Her nominators, Rob Cook and Steven McNulty, paid no attention to the 250-word limit. We decided not to hold that against her, partly because no one could explain all that Melissa does for Milan Woods without writing a novel.
Besides serving on the Milan Woods HOA for several years, Melissa was the major force behind the first Spring Festival, which has become an annual event thanks to her continued efforts. Several years ago, while trying to resurrect the Neighborhood Watch program, Melissa was the first to volunteer and has since become a premier example of a Neighborhood Watch block captain. And that comes directly from the program’s coordinators.
Organizing events would have been plenty enough to qualify as a Neighborhood Hero when looking at Melissa’s resume, or, in the words of your nominators, the “queen of party planning.” Durham always ranks high in the nation’s standings for our National Night Out participation, but in Milan Woods you’ll also want to attend Melissa’s pre-National Night Out kickoff party. Also her Halloween Party and Easter Egg hunt in the park.
Melissa is reputed for keeping these events fun for folks of all ages and footing most of the bills herself, too. Using group games of Taboo and potato-sack races, too, you keep Milan Woods hoppin’ year round.
As if that wasn’t plenty, Melissa decides that speeding through the neighborhood was another problem that deserved her attention. The neighborhood tried to explain that it had already tried to get speed humps and failed, but, as you can guess, that didn’t even slow her down. Working with the police and Durham transportation department, she did get speed indicator devices installed, and, to everyone’s surprise, that slowed the traffic down significantly.
Even her nominators cut the efforts she’s made short, suggesting that, “There’s more, but you get the gist.” Melissa, we do get the gist, and we have no doubt that there is more that will have to go unmentioned. We also agree with Rob and Steven that if there were more neighbors like you, the whole world would be a better and safer place to live.
We don’t have a Neighborhood Hero on Steroids award to offer, so we hope you’ll accept this one, along with our thanks and the appreciation of Durham.Norris Cotton - Forest Hills
Bill Anderson: Our next Hero resides in Forest Hills. Your neighborhood association sent us a fine nomination about you, Norris. In fact, I’d like to share it just as we received it – without any editorial comments.
“The Board of Directors of the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association would like to nominate Norris Cotton as our 2012 Neighborhood Hero. Norris has been elected to the Board of FHNA for the last five years, in addition to serving as the board president for the last three years.
“He has strengthened the ties between the neighborhood and the city/county government by serving as the liaison to Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Stormwater Services, and any other department that needs to be contacted to assist in solving issues to assist a single neighbor, or the entire neighborhood.
“Always a supporter of park work and cleanup days, Norris brings the appropriate equipment (including a Gator or the right machete) for the job, and entertains the kids in the neighborhood who attend those events by offering rides.
“He has organized monthly ‘park crawls’ where neighbors gather to walk the park and collect trash, followed by a social hour at someone’s house with pizza and liquid refreshments. And of course he hosted the first crawl to set the example.
“We all know that Forest Hills wouldn’t be as neighborly an environment without Norris’ enthusiasm and dedication.”
That’s a beautiful nomination Norris, and it’s word for word what your neighborhood sent to us. I’m not sure why I have this image of you walking through the park with a machete in one hand and a Gator on a leash in the other, with a bunch of kids riding it, no less.William Yates – Cook Road
Tom Miller: Some people are just lucky. They live near someone like William Yates of the Cook Road neighborhood.
When his neighbor’s car won’t start, he says, "Let me take a look." And see, it’s fixed! When the lady down the street needs to have her lawn mowed, Mr. Yates mows it. On trash and recycling day, you might think that somehow the containers just find their own way back to where they belong, but really, it’s Mr. Yates. Who puts the papers up on the porch in the morning? Mr. Yates. Who stops the faucet from dripping? Mr. Yates.
Will he take any compensation? No, of course not. He’s happy with a card at Christmas or a friendly wave.
Here and there in Durham, you find people like William Yates. They are a rare breed, but they are out there. We call them Neighborhood Heroes.
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