The diverse neighborhoods of the City of Lancaster are unifying and organizing to improve the quality of life for their communities. They are forming committees, hosting block parties, cleaning up streets, planning public art initiatives, and communicating with neighbors to work together towards common goals. Each of these neighborhood groups have individuals who serve as connectors in their communities. Lancaster City Alliance is proud to shine a spotlight on them here.
Name: Loretta Pagan-Crespo
Neighborhood Group: Community Connector and SoWe
Your work as one of the leaders in your Neighborhood Group is important because:
I serve as liaison between the people and families of SoWe to connect them with community resources. I work with residents to identify and navigate barriers that may be holding them back to taking the next step in life whether that is employment, education, or access to transportation. As a neighborhood committee member, I discuss the needs of our community. During the first phase of the South West Revitalization implementation, I conducted surveys in the SoWe area and I was able to bring back neighborhood concerns to the committee. I brought those concerns back to the committee and we began discussions on how to address these issues. We held community meetings at Culliton Park and had residents attend and discuss their concerns. I want residents to feel welcome at our meetings and talk about their concerns. I will continue to advocate for them but my goal is to have more resident participation in all of the committees.
Challenges that you are facing in your neighborhood right now:
They don’t trust that change will come. They don’t feel their voices are going to be heard and some residents don’t feel comfortable talking in a committee meeting setting. Challenges in our neighborhood include:
Safety- Residents complain about drug dealers and drug users in their neighborhoods and the increase in crime. Some residents live in unsafe and rundown apartments and houses, but it is all they can afford. They do not have the resources to move to a better area. The Lancaster City Police has made a user friendly brochure for Lancaster City residents. There are many ways to contact them.
Transportation- many residents do not have reliable transportation and are unable to apply for higher pay rate jobs. Some residents have criminal records and can’t drive because their license has been suspended. Some people can’t afford car insurance, premiums are too high or their cars need repairs.
Employment– Education, language, work shifts/hours, child care and distance to job site is a barrier for some residents. We have had an influx of immigrants and people affected by hurricanes and oppression in other countries. Many of these people need better training on living in America. They receive a certain level of help but then are left to fend for themselves in a country they know nothing of.
Access to Resources– Some of my residents have used the system over and over again. So, then they are living without water or heat or light. Some do not comply with the requirements to receive services and others have used the system and have burned their bridges. They are unable to get help with child care, food stamps, nutritional meals, housing, minimum wage jobs and criminal records.
What are some of the rewards from being a neighborhood connector in your Group:
○ We have had success putting together block parties and engaging residents of the community.
○ Watching kids play on the basketball court knowing we are going to improve the appearance of Culliton Park. Hosting Easter Egg Hunt and giving out hot chocolate and candy on Halloween night.
○ I was able to help out a young man who is trying to further his education so he can care for his young daughter. He had just kept running into road block after road block. But, he kept pushing forward and with my help and many around him, he was able to jump a hurdle.
○ A family fled to the United States on a political asylum from Cuba to come to a place where they didn’t understand the way of life here. They had to learn how to use our currency. They are learning to navigate in a new city. They are learning a new language but most of all, they are learning to live in a different world of their own. They came to me by chance. I was hosting an event with the Boys & Girls Club and I was able to connect with this family and give them some of resources that will help them adjust to a new life.
Can you give a specific example of how your neighborhood has worked together?
This past August we hosted a National Night Out event. The neighborhood committee and other community residents helped plan and organize a night where residents could come outside and get to know each other. There were so many families with their kids participating in the different activities. Residents brought food (sort of a pot- luck) in addition to our hotdogs and refreshments. We gave out over 180 back packs filled with school supplies to kids in the neighborhood (Courtesy of the Riverside Camping Association). We had other community organizations participate and share their information with families. There was such a great BUZZ that night. The Mayor and other local officials came to support the community and the neighborhood welcomed them with open arms.
What is your secret to meeting new neighbors and welcoming them into the community?
Taking the time to knock on doors and have face to face contact. I meet many of our residents in the area at the Boys & Girls Club on Water St. Some days I will meet and greet the parents and kids when they are arriving and leaving the club. I would start conversations and tell parents my role in the community and it sparks a conversation. We have our neighborhood, “Welcome Wagon”, which does a fantastic job welcoming new neighbors.
Favorite way to spend a day with family, or friends in Lancaster City:
I love to go to downtown Market. I like walking around at market and checking out all the different vendors. I like to see the variety of people who come to market. I enjoy watching softball games at Water St. Field/Culliton Park.