Stephanie McDonnell walked the streets of Beallwood Monday picking up trash in unfamiliar territory.
“I thought it would be nice to go somewhere else and help out,” said the 15-year-old, who arrived in Columbus Sunday with a youth group from Grace United Methodist Church of Fort Myers, Fla. “I don’t really have much stuff to do over the summer.”
McDonnell was in town Monday as a volunteer with TEAMeffort, a mission-focused youth group with volunteers all over the United States and overseas. The group came to Columbus to participate in the Big 4 Beallwood kick-off, which launched a massive neighborhood revitalization project to spruce up the aging neighborhood.
The day started with a program at the Girls Inc. on Kolb Avenue, where hundreds of volunteers gathered for a neighborhood rally. The audience cheered while watching performances by youths on the Girls Inc. jump rope, stepping and cup-stacking teams. Then they dispersed to fix up the neighborhood.
The neighborhood revitalization project is being organized by NeighborWorks Columbus. It will last for several weeks and include construction, rehabilitation and landscaping activities. The project will target the area bounded by Alexander Street on the north, 14th Avenue on the east, Kolb Avenue on the west and 45th street on the south. It’s a portion of Beallwood known as Beallwood Heights.
Groups participating in Monday’s kick-off included Habitat for Humanity, the City of Columbus, Girls Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Beallwood Area Neighborhood Development, Keep Columbus Beautiful and Canopy Keepers, a group affiliated with Trees Columbus. Other community activities scheduled for the next few weeks include a block party and dessert contest, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday, at Charlie Hill Park; free Columbus Fire Department safety and fire alarm inspections and the distribution of recycling bins to area residents.
Adam Drucker, center director for the Kolb Ave. Girls Inc., said it was great seeing so many people pumped up about Beallwood. Among those picking up trash throughout the community were many of the girls in his program.
“We are excited and honored to be a part of this,” he said. “We’ve already been involved in some of the work that’s going on and it’s a great opportunity for the girls to give back and be a part of the community.”
Throughout the weeks, TEAMeffort will provide 350 of the volunteers for the Big 4 Beallwood effort. The group is being supervised by paid college students who arrived in Columbus about a week ago to set up a volunteer summer camp. The students are from Washington State, Connecticut, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Throughout the summer, TEAMeffort will bring youths from different cities to Columbus for one-week shifts. Those already in town are staying at the Rankin Building at the CSU downtown campus.
Jeremy Twachtman, director of the local camp, said TEAMeffort had a relationship with WhiteWater Express in Copperhill, Tenn. When Whitewater opened in Columbus, discussions began about establishing a summer volunteer camp in the city.
“We heard about Big 4 Beallwood and what they’re doing and realized it could be a good partnership to benefit us both,” he said.
On Monday, the group from Fort Myers consisted of nine youths and two chaperones. In addition to picking up trash around Beallwood, the group was also scheduled to paint the Beallwood Area Neighborhood Development building and restrooms at Charlie Hill Park.
Joshua Lyle, a chaperone and youth pastor at the Fort Myers church, said Big 4 Beallwood is an opportunity to teach the teenagers about community service.
“The generation we see rising is very self-absorbed,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do as a church and youth program is break down that wall and get them to think about others instead of themselves. A lot of our kids have never been outside of Florida and so we wanted them to be able to experience other areas, other people and other things.”
Cornelia Grant is president of Beallwood Area Neighborhood Development. She said the building the youths painted Monday has belonged to the organization since 1994, when it was donated by the city for $1 a year. At the time, a Knight Foundation grant was used to renovate it. But the building has deteriorated in recent years.
Grant said members of BAND have been working with NeighborWorks to clean up the neighborhood, and it’s good to have some help.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “We’ve been pounding the pavement for months doing everything we could do.”
Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.