Denise Wallace won’t officially begin serving as president of the Ilion Area Block Association until January, when she assumes a two-year term.
But she was sworn in last Friday before a small crowd at the African Center for Community Development in St. Albans, and accepted the ceremonial passing of the president’s gavel from Betty Davis.
“She will be serving as president for 2014-15,” Davis said. “But we wanted to give her time to get some things in order.”
Wallace said she wants to increase membership and with it, the organization’s voice in the surrounding community.
Her first priority will be to conduct a community survey of the neighborhood to get a handle on how residents feel about public safety, the amount and quality of neighborhood police protection, and quality-of-life issues, such as the cleanliness of the streets and the availability of activities for children.
A draft of the survey, handed out on Friday, asks whether or not the respondents shop at stores and visit merchants located along the Farmers Boulevard corridor, and what types of businesses and services they would like to see open in the neighborhood.
It also asks if residents would be willing to participate in regular, volunteer community efforts to spruce up the neighborhood streets, sidewalks and green spaces or pay a fee for private security patrols.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Wallace said.
She has asked association members to comment on copies of the now five-page survey in order to better condense it and make it more concise in the coming weeks.
Davis said she still will remain very active in the organization, particularly when it comes to securing traffic-calming signs and markings in a number of troubled areas, such as Ilion Avenue, Wood Street and Jordan Avenue.
“We’ve been asking for all-way stop signs at Ilion and Wood and Jordan and Wood since February 2009,” she said.
Association member Saywalah Kesselly, a notary who swore in Davis, told the group he and others are working on a small idea which could prove to be huge for the financial and commercial well-being of the area, such as the store owners who Wallace spoke about keeping and attracting.
He wants within a year to establish a neighborhood credit union, followed within five years by a community bank.
“Many businesses here open up and have to close,” he said. “If you go to a big bank for a car loan, you can get the money. If you go for a home loan, you can get the money, because those are collateralized — if you don’t make the payments, they take the car or house.
“But go to the big banks for a business loan and they will refuse,” he said.
Kesselly said establishing a credit union could help businesses get established or to grow, and if successful, could prove the area as viable to support a community bank.
Community banks are smaller and have less capital, but they are locally owned and managed, and generally have a better feel for the needs of the areas in which they and their customers are located.