Twenty years ago, Belleville's Franklin Neighborhood was an area spiraling downward from poverty, deteriorating housing and crime.
The troubles could have continued to worsen. But thankfully, a group of dedicated, passionate people from Franklin School and St. Paul's United Church of Christ among others refused to accept that fate for Belleville. They created the Franklin Neighborhood Community Association and pulled the neighborhood back up along with the people in it.
Who knows how many children have a better life today thanks to the association's after-school and summer opportunities and computer lab? Some of those children are now young adults and volunteer in the association. They learned first-hand the importance of giving back to their community.
We do know that downtown wouldn't be the thriving retail and entertainment destination that it is were it not for the group's success in stabilizing the Franklin Neighborhood. It was this turnaround that made Art on the Square and other positive events possible.
And the city is using the Franklin Neighborhood Association as a blueprint for the Belleville Neighborhood Partnership program to strengthen neighborhoods throughout the city.
So happy 20th anniversary to the Franklin Neighborhood Association. Thanks to the many volunteers for all they have already accomplished and for the contributions they will make in the years ahead.