The InterNeighborhood Council recognized 31 Durham residents as Neighborhood Heroes Sunday night, in a ceremony before a packed upper room, decked out with colored balloons reading “INC,” at The Pit restaurant.
“If you were hoping to hang out with most of Durham’s finest citizens, you’re in the right place,” emcee Bill Anderson said. “When our neighborhoods are happy and vibrant, Durham is in great shape.”
Since starting the awards in 2003, the council has honored more than 150 people, who were nominated by their neighborhood or homeowners associations, or individuals familiar with them in their unpaid roles as an organizers, preservers or Good Samaritans in general.
Sunday’s presentations were touching, inspiring and occasionally funny. Anderson called up the winners and read off what each had done, quoting from the nominations sent in for them and adding commentary of his own.
Recognizing Pete Katz from Old North Durham, Anderson said, “I loved the way Pete’s nomination ended: ... Pete always takes personal responsibility for ensuring that there is sufficient beer at Old North Durham’s semi-annual block parties.”
The recipients’ good deeds ran a gamut, from decades’ service to organizations and charities, aiding elderly neighbors with their errands, pitching in on Fourth of July parades and December Nights of Lights, to a single seemingly simple acts of kindness – such as Nazeeh Abdul Hakeem’s assistance to a Rockwood neighbor fallen by the side of a street.
Harold Chestnut was recognized for civic engagement spanning 27 years as president of the Unity Village neighborhood, along with leading and assisting in a score or more of other civic groups – and as “the guy who gets the streets paved, then adds speed humps and streetlights to make them safer.”
Streets figured heavily in the nomination of Thelma Glenn White of Emorywood: successfully pressing City Hall to pave streets in her neighborhood, add curbs and gutters, reconstruct a dangerous intersection and beautify the neighborhood’s entrance.
Tania Dautlick’s nomination included her “ongoing battle with the kudzu that is invading (Forest Hills) park.” Randy Fletcher’s included holding Halloween hayrides at his home in Treyburn, as well as stopping “the bonehead Randy caught stealing water from a city fire hydrant.”
Creativity was apparent, such as Lisa Richmond’s idea for the entrance to her Birchwood neighborhood: a trash can with a backboard that bears the invitation “Dunk Trash here.” According to City Councilman Steve Schewel, who nominated Richmond, the invitation works.
Winners came from 19 neighborhoods, the largest contingent a fivesome from Old East Durham: Aliyah Abdur-Rahman, Camryn and Ernest Smith and Clarence and Veronica Terry.
They were recognized for organizing Communities in Partnership, which Anderson described as “a grassroots, neighbor-led organization focused on building community.”
Organizing their neighbors was inspired by a 2011 drive-by shooting on Driver Street that left two children wounded inside their own home. The initial effort was getting neighbors to know each other, and from that has developed a neighborhood self-help group with “a mission of inclusiveness and making sure every neighbor’s voice is heard.”
Besides the Smiths and Terrys, there were three other hero couples:
• Jacqueline and Richard Morgan, founding organizers of the Trinity Park Neighborhood Association in 1974;
• Becky and the late Haywood Davis, long active in their Downing Creek neighborhood;
• Donna Levy and Daniel Quinn, noted for getting information of mutual interest out to their Spring Valley neighbors, in person, print and online.
Spreading information and connecting neighbors with each other figured in a number of the nominating testimonials, particularly creation and oversight of neighborhood email lists, commonly called “listservs.” At one point Anderson took a break from introducing heroes to expound upon those lists.
“According to some research I did years ago, Durham enjoyed more neighborhood listservs that any other city in the nation,” Anderson said.
“Durham is the leading edge of this,” he said. “What we used to do over the backyard fence, one neighbor at a time, we can now do over the Internet 500 neighbors at a whack – and attach photographs.”
Here is the full list of 2015 Neighborhood Heroes:
• Lisa Richmond, Birchwood Heights.
• Ginger Blubaugh, Old West Durham.
• Eric Heidt, Old West Durham.
• Galia Goodman, Watts Hospital-Hillandale.
• Dean Michaels, Watts Hospital-Hillandale.
• Dan Read, Duke Park.
• Donna Levy and Daniel Quinn, Spring Valley.
• Patti Rieser, Long Meadow.
• Harold Chestnut, Unity Village.
• José Sandoval, Woodcroft.
• Dan Jewell, Trinity Park.
• Jacqueline and Richard Morgan, Trinity Park.
• Linda Wilson, Trinity Park.
• Nazeeh Abdul Hakeem, Rockwood.
• Aliyah Abdur-Rahman, Old East Durham.
• Camryn and Ernest Smith, Old East Durham.
• Clarence and Veronica Terry, Old East Durham.
• Maggie Davis and Shirley Street, Walltown.
• Becky and the late Haywood Davis, Downing Creek.
• Tania Dautlick, Forest Hills.
• Thelma Glenn White, Emorywood.
• Jeff Scott, Fairfield.
• Dan Singer, Northgate Park.
• Randy Fletcher, Treyburn.
• Pete Katz, Old North Durham.
The InterNeighborhood Council ( nando.com/inc) was organized in 1984 to bring neighborhood and homeowners’ associations in contact with each other and serve as a unified advocate on issues of shared concern such as zoning, public safety and parks. Its website lists 31 member organizations.