Meet the 2020-21
Neighbors Together Team
Opal Baker has lived in the Jefferson Park neighborhood in East Point for nine years. Opal is active in the broader East Point community and regularly attends City Council and other community meetings. She has a passion for issues that impact environmental and public safety, quality educational opportunities, racial equity, and economic development. Opal enjoys engaging with her neighbors and listening to their concerns and their visions for East Point. She has volunteered for the US Census and Fair Fight Action. In addition, she has helped neighbors register to vote and served as a poll worker. Opal loves the close-knit nature of her Jefferson Park neighborhood. While the pandemic has canceled block parties and progressive dinners, it has not thwarted the spirit of the community that continues to thrive. Opal looks forward to learning new skills to support her community organizing efforts. In her spare time, Opal enjoys camping, hiking, reading, and dancing.
Nykelia Boozer has lived in the Stagecoach Village neighborhood in Clayton County for four years. While many community volunteer activities have been suspended during the pandemic, Nykelia remained active in co-leading a voter registration movement for her neighborhood. She loves the peaceful, calm environment of her community. Stagecoach has traditionally been a neighborhood of older households, but the pandemic has brought in more young people and families with children. Nykelia is looking forward to improving community engagement and involving the younger demographic in neighborhood life. She envisions planting flowers, starting community gardens, planning block parties, and supporting elderly residents. A commercial underwriter with State Farm and full-time nursing student, Nykelia enjoys spending time with her daughter and coaching cheerleading.
Joseph Coleman has lived in the Belvedere Park neighborhood for four years. He is currently involved in a greenspace project to create a shareable community space with gardens and a walkway. He also participates in a regular road cleanup in partnership with "Keep Dekalb Beautiful.” In addition, Joe serves on the Board of a local volunteer organization where he volunteers with the Salvation Army on a monthly basis to give out food to those in need. Before the pandemic, Joe was a frequent volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club as a homework tutor and teen mentor. Joe loves the greenery and tree coverage in the Belvedere Park neighborhood. He enjoys seeing friendly neighbors walking in the neighborhood or relaxing on their front porches on the weekends. Joe would like to see more sidewalks and greenspaces to help beautify the neighborhood. He looks forward to partnering with like-minded individuals to address community needs and gain the necessary skills to make positive changes in the community. In his spare time, Joe loves being outside and exploring new places.
Shelia Edwards has lived in Cobb County since 1992 and in South Cobb since 2008. Shelia regularly advocates before the Cobb County Board of Commissioners on issues impacting her community and its needs. Several years ago, she launched Legacy Cares, a grassroots organization to stop a waste transfer station from illegally operating in her community. She is involved with the Austell Community Task Force, and she is an active member of her HOA with a special focus on community policing efforts. Shelia recently launched an online community newspaper --- SPOTLIGHT South Cobb News, which will focus on the South Cobb communities of Mableton, Austell, Powder Springs, and parts of Marietta and Smyrna. She loves the wonderful location of her neighborhood – easy access to downtown, the airport, and major interstates. Shelia dreams of a thriving South Cobb for all residents with opportunities for well-paying jobs, economic development and homeownership. In her spare time, Shelia loves to read and travel. During the pandemic, Shelia recently completed a 1,000-piece puzzle!
Shelby Kurland is a new resident of the Belvedere Park neighborhood but has quickly fallen in love with its community and culture. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Belvedere Park Neighborhood Association and works to create a positive impact by bringing neighbors together to solve challenges. She believes the best thing about the Belvedere Park neighborhood is its people. There are residents who have lived in the neighborhood for 30+ years and neighbors who are just moving in. All over the community, neighbors are motivated to come together, learn from each other, and implement positive projects to create a better neighborhood for all. There are many ongoing projects in the neighborhood, including improving Shoal Creek Park, reducing speeding in the neighborhood, assisting residents who are aging out of their homes, and working with developers to create positive and equitable opportunities for the neighborhood. Shelby hopes to gain tools and tactics for implementing and organizing projects and wants to share this knowledge with her community. Currently, she works as a Marketing Specialist at a health research nonprofit in Atlanta. In her spare time, she enjoys petting neighborhood dogs on her daily walk.
Shaneek Nadrich has lived in Stone Mountain for the last two years. Before the pandemic, she taught yoga and meditation classes in her community as part of her passion for bringing wellness practices to neighborhood residents as a means to handle stress and anxiety. Shaneek loves living in Stone Mountain and appreciates the park and beautiful green space. She is excited that the Main Street corridor is being renovated and bringing in new minority-owned businesses including coffee shops, gyms, and many foodie spots. She would love to see improved job training opportunities and more affordable housing in the community. Shaneek looks forward to making connections with other resident leaders who are working for positive change in their communities. Shaneek works for CHRIS 180. In her spare time, she enjoys climbing Stone Mountain, running, practicing yoga, reading, cooking, and learning to play chess.
Giovanni Sturgis is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and has lived in South DeKalb since relocating to Georgia in 2017. Giovanni has a passion for youth development, community organizing and the arts. He serves as Club Director at the Salvation Army Peachcrest Boys and Girls Club in the heart of the Greater Towers and Columbia neighborhoods. Through his job, Giovanni has cultivated partnerships with the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, the United Way, Emory University, and the DeKalb Youth Prosperity Initiative. He loves the sense of pride and family atmosphere in the Towers community. Giovanni would like to see new sidewalks and crosswalks in the neighborhood especially near schools. He also envisions more local gardens and access to healthy and affordable food. In his spare time, Giovanni produces music and writes poetry.
Families thrive in safe and healthy neighborhoods. But communities rarely achieve such desired conditions without informed and engaged residents. In the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis, many South Metro Atlanta neighborhoods continue to struggle with high levels of negative equity, an imbalance of rental and homeownership housing, and a host of issues related to these conditions.
In these impacted neighborhoods, residents are coming together in Neighborhood Watch meetings, homeowners’ associations, and small groups of concerned citizens to make their neighborhoods whole again. To support residents engaged in the work of neighborhood stabilization, ANDP created Neighbors Together.
First launched at the annual NeighborWorks Week in 2015, Neighbors Together was designed to be a training and leadership development event with the goal of arming residents with the information and tools needed to strengthen communities from the inside out. The event was well-received by neighborhood leaders and ANDP was asked to continue to offer the free training event.
Now in its fifth year, Neighbors Together convenes both formal and informal neighborhood leaders for an annual half-day of training with an emphasis on neighborhood stabilization efforts. Training topics include:
Neighborhood Branding and Marketing,
Property Law & Code Enforcement,
Strengthening Relationships with Law Enforcement,
Connecting School and Community,
Neighborhood Advocacy with Elected Officials, and
Foreclosure Mitigation Programs.
Neighbors Together is executed in three distinct phases:
Community Leadership Institute - Neighborhood residents and leaders who demonstrate an uncommon commitment to their communities are selected on an annual basis for a six-person team to attend NeighborWorks® America’s Community Leadership Institute (CLI). As described by NeighborWorks America, “CLI is an invitation-only, three-day training event that aims to strengthen the voices and skills of community, resident and volunteer leaders. Participants from around the country attend in small teams from communities served by NeighborWorks Network organizations and their partners. They attend a full range of courses and each participating team creates an action plan for making a positive change in their community.”
Dating back to its creation in 2008, CLI events have been held in New Orleans, LA; San Jose and Sacramento CA; Milwaukee, WI; Kansas City, MO; Orlando, FL; Cincinnati, OH; and Louisville, KY.
ANDP’s 2019 Neighbors Together Team, representing six South Metro communities, will participate in this year’s CLI in Chicago, IL.
Local Solutions - After attending the national CLI event, Neighbors Together Team members meet with ANDP staff for guidance as they undertake the necessary research to identify their specific neighborhood issues and underlying causes. Over the next several months, the team and ANDP staff collaborate to create a half-day training event designed to discuss the specific concerns identified. Simultaneously, team members begin developing a plan of action and identifying community stakeholders to engage. The annual training event also serves as a sounding board and an opportunity for further development of team member plans.
Creating Change - After participating in Neighbors Together for nearly a year, team members move forward with the information and resources they’ve gained in the process to address their neighborhood concerns. Most team members return to attend the annual training events to further their understanding of issues and skill development.
NEIGHBORS TOGETHER IMPACT
30 metro residents have been selected to attend NeighborWorks America’s National Community Leadership Institute, and subsequently joined the Neighbors Together Team.
Team members planned and executed five annual Neighbors Together training events, engaging more than 500 active, committed neighborhood leaders.
Several Team members have taken their engagement to the next level by running for elected office or participating in additional leadership training programs.
Several program participants have successfully learned to apply for and receive funding to support their neighborhood-based programs and initiatives.
For questions about the Neighbors Together program, please contact
Senior Director for Policy
& Community Engagement
About NeighborWorks America
For more than 35 years, NeighborWorks America, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit, has created opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities by providing access to homeownership and to safe and affordable rental housing. In the last five years, NeighborWorks organizations have generated more than $27.2 billion in reinvestment in these communities. NeighborWorks America is the nation’s leading trainer of community development and affordable housing professionals. More online at www.neighborworks.org.