There was a time when Main Street in the Historic Downtown Garner was considered one of the worst parts of the town. It was in the early ’90s. Drugs were rampant, and police chases were normal. Buildings were dilapidated and vacant. Businesses were few and far between.
A once thriving area had basically been left behind.
“Main Street had just about died,” Mayor Pro-tem Kathy Behringer said.
But Pam Cash, who lived in the area, and some of her neighbors, including Behringer, were tired of it.
“We were tired of being victimized in our own community,” Behringer said.
Cash led a effort to improve things. She and others knocked on their neighbors’ doors to encourage them to do something about it.
As a result of her contributions, Cash was nominated by the Garner Revitalization Association as a “Main Street Champion.”
Cash is now battling cancer and was not available for comment on this story.
“Pam was one of those people who much preferred to be behind the scenes,” Behringer said. “She was a very hard worker, but she didn’t so much want any acknowledgment.”
Cash started with little things, like introducing her neighbors to the Main Street program, organizing a neighborhood watch group, cleaning up, and advocating for her neighborhood before the town council. While knocking on doors in the early 1990s, she met Sam Bridges, a former Garner mayor from 2001 to 2005.
Bridges said if not for Cash, he may not have been interested in becoming mayor. He became inspired by her drive and dedication and decided he wanted to make a difference too.
Over the next several years, the neighbors formed a nonprofit group called “Friends of Historic Garner.” The group talked about ways to convince the town board then that something needed to be done to revitalize downtown Garner.
Eventually, the Garner Revitalization Association was started, and there was no longer a need for the Friends of Historic Garner. The GRA had more resources to improve things.
“Pam and her mother have just been very instrumental and very committed to seeing that part of town get better,” Bridges said. “And as a result of her effort and others it has. It has come a long way in 20 years.”
Thrity-seven other people in different cities and towns around the state were also nominated by their respective towns. Each person was recognized at a ceremony during the North Carolina Main Street Conference in Goldsboro.
The “Main Street Champion” designation was established in 2000 as part of the North Carolina Main Street’s 20th anniversary celebration and honors those who have played pivotal roles in the revitalization of their downtowns.
“Pam Cash spent twenty years championing downtown revitalization in Garner, spurred by her strong desire to contribute and make her community better,” the Garner Revitalization Association said. “Pam was a catalyzing force behind early redevelopment activities.
“...without her, Downtown Garner would not be the place it is today. Her behind-the-scenes activism left a great legacy to our current Main Street revitalization program.”
Behringer agreed with that sentiment.
“She just wanted to make her neighborhood better,” she said.