Residents, police and others clean up Roosevelt Avenue; residents hope for change

jmadden@herald-leader.comNovember 13, 2013 

The vinyl siding of Rosalyn Goddard-Stoutamire's home is pocked with bullet holes.

Stoutamire found bullets in her kitchen floor one morning. Three small windows, including one that has a bullet hole filled with putty, are boarded up in the back of the house. A fourth window, a large one that was shot out months ago, is covered with plastic.

Because of the violence, Goddard-Stoutamire, 60, has designated a small corner in the kitchen for her 11-year-old grandson to sit if they hear gunshots.

"He knows where to go," she said. "There aren't any windows in there."

Goddard-Stoutamire's house in the 400 block of Roosevelt Boulevard reflects some of the stories about the crime that has plagued the community in recent months. But its age also shows the challenges that Goddard-Stoutamire faces.

She recently replaced two windows in the front of her home. The chain-link fence that separated her home and Florence Avenue was destroyed. Holes were cut into it by people using it as a pathway. Her front gate is breaking down.

On Wednesday, Habitat for Humanity, a Christian ministry partnering with volunteers and donors to eliminate substandard housing, launched the "We Care—Love Your Neighborhood" initiative with the Lexington Division of Police. The group cleaned up Roosevelt Avenue and built a new fence for Goddard-Stoutamire.

"We had initial discussions about assisting the woman on Roosevelt with repairs from the drive-by shooting which damaged her house," Lexington Habitat CEO Rachel Childress said, referencing the shooting this summer. "Further brainstorming about how the police, other public safety officials and Habitat could partner led to expanding the project from repairs to that one house to doing some sprucing up on all of Roosevelt."

About 50 volunteers showed up Wednesday with trash bags, weed eaters and shovels, said John McClelland, construction director for Lexington Habitat. Hedges were trimmed and about 200 feet of overgrown brush was cleared from chain-link fences, he said.

"It was a lot of fun today," McClelland said. "The best part of it is meeting people and the neighborhood. We were organizing to show this community that we want to be involved."

Goddard-Stoutamire was pleased with her "beautiful" new wooden fence.

"Hopefully it'll stop them from running through my yard," she said.

It was a huge effort by all public safety officials, said Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts. The corrections, fire and sheriff's departments helped out.

"This project is one small part of the bigger picture in getting the residents to partner with us in improving their overall neighborhood," Roberts said.

Improvements to Roosevelt came after police attended meetings, knocked on doors and patrolled the area more frequently, Roberts said.

Efforts to change the community have come full circle, said 2nd District Councilwoman Shevawn Akers, whose district includes the area off Georgetown Road. She said she thought the neighborhood was lost and forgotten, but changes are happening.

For example, this summer, preachers at local churches organized marches — community prayer walks — throughout the community to fight crime and bring the people together, she said.

Neighbors who live near Douglass Park took action after a recent spate of shootings and other crimes, and called on police to step up patrols. They later took their concerns to Mayor Jim Gray and asked Gray and city council members to support programs that could deter the use and sale of drugs in the Georgetown Street area near Douglass Park.

"There has been a lot of activism in the neighborhood to raise awareness," Akers said.

She said initiatives toward the betterment of the West End are to show the neighborhood that city officials and police care.

"All of this lets the residents know we care for their safety and livability," she said.

Goddard-Stoutamire appreciated Wednesday's effort and is optimistic about positive change. An increase in police presence — including their involvement Wednesday — has also given Goddard-Stoutamire and others hope.

"Now that they're doing a better job I can sit outside with a cup of iced tea and kids can play outside," she said.

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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