Building a community by building people
By Rev. Stacey Mills
Many times when people talk about redeveloping a community or neighborhood, their mind and discussions immediately go to buildings and places.
But they need to be talking to people. It’s people who really make a community. It’s people who make a place, a real place.
That is one of the things that I have long pondered as I and others have pondered the future of the Newtown Community. This community once had close to 500 families living in it, but that number has dwindled to less than 10 as we speak today.
As we looked to the future, it wasn’t my desire to construct buildings, it was my desire to build people. Mountain View Baptist Church sits at the heart of Newtown in more ways than one. That is why it I believe it is my call to this community and to the church that I serve.
That is what led to the creation of the non-profit Parish House Community Development Corporation, which will start gathering public input for the transformative revitalization of the historic Newtown Community with a kickoff meeting on April 26 followed by three days of charrette planning.
A charrette is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers.
The Parish House Community Development Corporation was created by Mountain View Baptist Church to help facilitate the planning for the rebirth of the Newtown Community, which is located on the western edges of the City of Greenville between the Swamp Rabbit Trail, Bramlett Road and the CSX rail lines and adjacent to the future Unity Park.
The kickoff will be held on Tuesday, April 26 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Mountain View Baptist Church, 111 Cagle Street, Greenville. The three-day charrette will be held April 28 through April 30 at the church as well. Signing up to take part is encouraged and can be done at www.parishhousecdc.com.
This is the start of something amazing for our community. We envision a vibrant and healthy community with improved quality of life realized through the work of Parish House addressing quality affordable housing; health and education disparities; lack of economic opportunities — all of which have historically impaired Newtown’s ability to thrive.
Newtown is part of the greater Southernside Community, which draws its name for the railroad company whose lines and depot once dominated the landscape. Tall oaks populate the greenery. The Reedy River and Swamp Rabbit Trail run parallel to the neighborhood and help form its boundaries. The church is the tallest structure and easily the most recognizable in the community. Built and organized in the community in 1908, Mountain View moved to its current site in 1920. The current church building opened its doors in 1920.
Parish House had created six core values to drive the project to help ensure it goal to uplift Newtown, a historically disenfranchised Black community, by creating a thriving district that cultivates and appreciates the Black community
· Health — Cultivate a safe and healthy environment
· Education — Nurture learning for upward mobility
· Equity — Create opportunities for access to a quality standard of living
· Culture — Honor and preserve historical social institutions
· Entrepreneurship — Encourage creativity, economic growth, and fiscal solvency
· Integrity — Be honest and just in our words and actions
More than a century ago the community built the church and now the church wants to build the community. And that is a community of people.
The Rev. Stacey Mills is the senior pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church. To learn more about the Parish House Community Development project go to www.parishhousecdc.org.