JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Officials with the Jonesboro Community Development Department told Region 8 News Wednesday it will host a town hall meeting Thursday, September 10th at the Parker Park Community Center in north Jonesboro. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. and will include a guest speaker from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
The meeting is the kick-off event for revitalizing Jonesboro's north side. According to Gayle Vickers with the Jonesboro Community Development Department, her office has been receiving a large volume of calls requesting assistance and information on various grant .
Vickers said north Jonesboro is phase one of a multi-phase program to help the city of Jonesboro rebuild deprived areas.
"The first challenge is to get people to understand that a program and a dollar amount is not going to change their neighborhood. They are the change in their neighborhood," said Vickers.
Vickers said anyone who would like to see change in the north side of town is invited to attend Thursday's meeting.
"You have to come to the table. You have to tell us what those needs are and what you're willing to invest," said Vickers. "If people aren't willing to invest in it themselves, then there's nothing that we can do. There's nothing one single entity is going to be able to change."
Mayor Harold Perrin said Thursday's meeting is extremely important to the future to revitalization.
"We also got to identify those who are going to make this become a reality and that's going to be the people of north Jonesboro, as well as the city of Jonesboro and the Rockefeller Foundation," said Perrin. "I would encourage everybody to come that has an interest in that. If you're coming to Jonesboro, you know we've always been a volunteerism city."
Perrin said it was important several people turn out for the meeting. He said members of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation will be on hand to offer advice on how to rebuild neglected areas of town.
"They're going to come in and show us and teach us how some of these things can be done and I think that's the whole key tomorrow night. I think tomorrow night's meeting is very important because it's the first step to really tell folks in there, 'what do you want your community to look like," said Perrin.
"They have been looking and interviewing communities all over the state and this community was extremely involved and extremely exciting," said Vickers. "If you have an idea, share it and let's see what we can do to make it happen."
"We're going to take north Jonesboro because that has the highest vulnerability issues," said Vickers.
According to Vickers, the north side of Jonesboro includes areas with the highest number of unemployed, people in poverty, elderly and people who live in deplorable housing.
The Community Development Block Grant has tried battling that problem by itself.
"The goal of that grant is, first of all, housing, and sustainable housing and then lifestyle, a way to change their situation to get them to where they can, in fact, own their own home," said Vickers.
Vickers said the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation learned of her ideas and vision for north Jonesboro in a meeting with other city department heads.
"There is no limit with this. We're as limited as people allow themselves to think," said Vickers. "I couldn't be more excited. I couldn't be more excited because I've worked for three years to get to a position where we can show who we are and all of our citizens can get involved in something and make change and we can do that."
"We call it flying in formation in that we're all working toward the same common deal. I think that's the whole thrust of this program, taking all these people together," said Perrin.
Perrin and Vickers said residents of northeast Jonesboro show compassion in times of natural disasters, such as the ice storm cleanup earlier this year and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"After Katrina, we had over 2,500 volunteers to help with those 4 different shelters that we had. I told her about our community and about how absolutely giving they were at all times," said Vickers.
"Jonesboro has always responded to natural catastrophe, such as Katrina, things of that nature," said Perrin.
Perrin and Vickers said the city could show that same compassion for their own neighborhoods.
"We wanted to clean up the neighborhood and give them hope and give them a voice, let them know that we do care, that there is a way out of poverty. That there is a way to get your neighborhood cleaned up and looking like something you're proud of," said Vickers.