by Joe Schwartz
The Rogers-Eubanks Road Neighborhood Association is asking for your support as the group competes for a $50,000 grant from Pepsi to fund a community center and garden to unite neighbors.
After one month of voting, the project ranks No. 333 out of more than 1,000 hopefuls in the Pepsi Refresh Project and needs to reach top-10 status to earn the money.
The Rev. Robert Campbell of the Coalition to End Environmental Racism and the neighborhood association (RENA) says funding would be used to foster an exchange of ideas and a sense of place.
“It’s going to help with breaking down those invisible fences as well as those visible fences,” Campbell says. “We are trying to get neighborhoods to actually become a community.”
The area has been home to the Orange County landfill since 1972 and has had to battle smell, dump trucks, water and air quality and a host of other unpleasant issues.
In recent years, community members have bound together both in opposition of locating a new landfill there when the current one reaches capacity and in support of each other through events such as a Back to School Bash at which 450 children received free backpacks full of school supplies.
The bash was one of the first events at the Rogers Road Community Center, which the group is renting.
Campbell says Pepsi funds would allow them to purchase the building, make the center permanent and expand mentoring and tutoring programs for children. The community garden, tilled and seeded in June and now producing salads for neighbors, could be repopulated and maintained with the funds, as well.
“You’ve got people talking, sharing ideas. You have kids playing with each other now, so it’s doing away with that separation and that idea of being bullied,” he says. “We need more social engagement to preserve the quality of life in this community, so all neighbors are friends and no one has any strangers living next door to them.”
That aim is more difficult these days as the area continues to be developed. Campbell now can count nine different neighborhoods that he considers part of RENA.
“It shows diversity in our community,” Campbell says. “We have different avenues to walk down, but our social involvement is to preserve our quality of life. This is a good opportunity to be a part of that.”
You can learn more about the project and vote here, and you can weigh in once a day until the contest ends Nov. 30.
Last month RENA was awarded $25,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency for weatherization and education.