FLINT, Michigan -- In the spring of 2016, a small group of eastside neighbors got together to formalize their subdivision into an official neighborhood association, and the Eastside Franklin Park Neighborhood Group was born.
At the time, the area was suffering significantly from the impact of blight and abandoned properties, and the association’s primary focus was to increase collaboration throughout the neighborhood, which is surrounded by Dort Highway, Davison Road, Franklin Avenue, and Robert T. Longway Boulevard.
With the support of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, the association began regular cleanups and put in place plans to turn vacant lots that had once housed neglected properties into a neighborhood park.
Edna Sabucco is the current leader of the association and is a 45-year resident of the eastside neighborhood. “On June 11th of 2016, we went out and we cleaned up. We got enough volunteers together ... We cleaned 17 land bank properties,” Sabucco said. “Some of the lots were vacant. A lot of them were not, some of them had a lot of garbage, some of them needed to be mowed. You know, we passed out flyers so that people in the neighborhood could put stuff out to the curb and we picked that all up, put it in trailers and whatnot, and brought it back to the dumpster.”
Those initial efforts have continued and increased each year since. This Saturday, May 15, Eastside Franklin Park is one of several Flint neighborhoods participating in a city-wide cleanup. Volunteers will meet at Washington Elementary, off of Arlington Avenue, and work on a variety of projects from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tools, gloves, COVID-19 screenings, and other materials will be provided. Another group of volunteers, organized by The HEART of Flint and Flint Driven Church, is doing a cleanup nearby in the Davison Road area. Details of that cleanup are on Facebook
. Several neighborhood groups are doing cleanup events on May 15 in each ward. A list of volunteer opportunities is available on the Neighborhood Engagement Hub’s Facebook page
In 2018, grants from the Community Foundation and Ruth Mott Foundation donated two transformational grants and further cleaning and park investments were made for the neighborhood.
Sabucco believes in the work being done through the neighborhood association, and the vital role they play in bringing neighbors together in communities everywhere. “They’re [neighborhood associations] a reflection,” she said. “They are a reflection of society and in the long run how it is supposed to work.
“You can’t do hay-baling by yourself. You know, we have a bailing party. Everybody you know takes turns going to different farms. If your livestock gets out, your neighbors help round them up and send them back home. That’s the type of mentality that I was raised with, if somebody needs a hand, automatically step up and do it.”
Sabucco believes in the importance of residents coming together to clean up the neighborhood, and has seen that with neighbors in Eastside Franklin Park. It does more than just make the area look more attractive. The work also helps people get to know each other
“You mow your lawn, you paint your trim, you do all these things in your house and in your own yard,” she said. “If everybody does that in the neighborhood and maybe step across the property line and clean up that vacant property next door … the neighborhood looks so much better. People feel better about themselves. They’re outside. You’re getting acquainted with one and another. It breeds familiarity, which also helps people start to say, ‘hey, that’s my neighbor.’”