Options expanded in Shreveport’s Allendale neighborhood 0

Posted on 28, November 2009

in Category Community, Headline, News

Residents of Shreveport’s Allendale and Ledbetter Heights neighborhoods this year say they are extra grateful for options for food, whether it’s from a locally owned grocery store or a community garden.

The area’s story is no secret. Formerly thriving blocks decayed into buildingless, overgrown lots. But that is changing slowly.

Nonprofits and churches such as People of Praise, Community Renewal International, Habitat for Humanity, Mt. Canaan and Galilee Baptist churches and the Fuller Center for Housing have built dozens of homes and apartments that provide housing below market and at competitive prices. That has happened in conjunction with government plus help from private businesses.

But residences alone can’t restore a place, according to elected and unofficial community leaders. So commerce and other amenities must come next.

Allendale native Claude Marshall is trying to do that with his family’s Dale Street Grocery and Deli. The business has been open nearly a year in a building that housed a former store before it burned.

Garden of Hope

Garden of Hope - © Douglas Collier/The Times

Marshall takes a hyper local approach in his enterprise. He doesn’t sell alcohol — “seeing as how it’s destroyed the neighborhood” — and is hoping to get involved with WIC — which stands for Women, Infants, and Children — and provides money to get food for mothers and their young children.

“When you’ve got to pay somebody $5 to get something that cost $2, it just wouldn’t be feasible,” Marshall said, alluding to the cost of taxis or public transportation being too expensive. “They want something to eat without having to walk a long way to get it.”

Marshall, 55, is glad his business has seen its first Thanksgiving: “I’m in the black. I’m not in the red. I thank the loyal customers that come in every day.”

Shreveport City Councilman Calvin Lester, who has represented the neighborhoods since 2002, is thankful for business owners like Marshall.

“We have built houses and we have put people in those houses. But the thing that needs to happen now is focusing on the entrepreneurial opportunities and the economic development for the area,” Lester said. “I have said that there are some things that government does well, and there’s others it does not. I think government can build houses, but it takes more than just governmental intervention to rebuild communities.”

Empty parcels of land don’t just happen. Between 1970 and 2000, the population in Allendale shrank from 16,247 to 5,982. During that same time, Shreveport’s total residents grew nearly 10 percent from 182,064 to 200,145.

But besides new houses, Allendale and Ledbetter Heights residents have found other creative ways to rebuild.

The appropriately named Rosie Chaffold takes care of the Allendale Garden of Hope and Love. She’s a familiar face to neighbors — who honked and waved while driving by on a recent Tuesday — and she’s received media attention and accolades over the years for her work with dirt.

With lots of help from the LSU AgCenter and volunteers from outside the neighborhood, she provides plenty of green stuff for neighbors to eat, free of charge, plus well-kept flower beds. And all on a street corner where she and police say folks used to meet “for something stronger than that — something illegal.” And that would have been drugs.

But since 2001, Chaffold said, neighbors who used to ask her why she tried to make a difference occasionally stop by to help her with gardening. Now she feels gratified but hopes more nearby residents will join her. The work and the food, she said, are the bounty.

“When you’re in a garden you feel like you’re next to God, close to the Earth,” said Chaffold, a Mer Rouge native who has called Allendale home for more than three decades.

Ruth Peace has seen more changes in Allendale than Chaffold. The 89-year-old woman has lived on Buena Vista Street, where she raised a family with her late husband, since 1960. She eats a vegetable or two from the community garden now and then, and she appreciates the work that goes into it.

“I’ll be 90 years old come next August, so you know I have a whole lot to be thankful for,” Peace said. “It has changed. But there’s always room for improvement.”

By Adam Kealoha Causey • acausey@gannett.com

Source: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20091128/NEWS01/911280318/1060