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IMAGINE! 2nd Annual United Neighborhoods Conference

by Linda Leighty 

Is a neighborhood even possible without neighbors?

The engaged group of community citizens who attended the conference on Saturday 24 March would laugh out loud! Their focus, in an excellent forum organized and sponsored by Greenville’s Neighborhood Advisory Board and the Human Relations Council, was all about people and community.

The conclusion from the conference

is that Greenville’s future depends on all of us.

We need to meet with one another,

share resources and information,

and then effect necessary changes.

Relationships, not proximity, stipulate their overriding definition for neighborhoods. The focal point for all presenters was that neighbors don’t just live near each other; they form a community.

Ann Maxwell, Chair of the Neighborhood Advisory Board, welcomed everyone and introduced two themes that later presenters independently reinforced: narratives of personal, positive success bringing past improvements to neighborhoods and encouragement for future changes.


Jimmye Jones answers the question, "Why West Greenville?"

Session 1 moved neighborhood development into the foreground. Dr. Jerry Weitz spoke of ways in which the city supported neighborhoods. Gary Fenton demonstrated how Greenville’s extensive investment in parks and recreation pays dividends for the community. Coming soon will be a volunteer “friends of the park” program offering citizens the opportunity to identify a specific park to support. Marsha Wyly wryly reviewed the seventeen-year progress toward the Intermodal Transportation Center, also providing photos of modern, attractive operating intermodal centers elsewhere in the southeast.


Session 2 pivoted back to the people developing neighborhoods. Speakers representing four of the fifty-eight very different kinds of neighborhood associations stressed that good neighbors make good neighborhoods. Melissa Tilley worked year after year, alone and with others, to rehabilitate a once-blighted area. Vince Bellis’ neighborhood has transitioned from its origin as an ECU faculty enclave to one whose residents include retirees, students, young families, and others. His neighborhood association has successfully included all residents through social activities, a web page, a “neighborhood alert” email list, and a newsletter. Joni Torres, from the Pitt County Extension Service, delivered examples of neighbors who began by sharing community gardens and finished by sharing in other ways.


Chris Nunnaly answers the question, "Why West Greenville?"

Session 3 combined people and neighborhoods by shining the spotlight on West Greenville. Jimmye Jones’ lively humor enlivened his retrospective photo essay. Chris Nunnally is a living testimonial to West Greenville’s attraction for young people. Both men grew up in the area, credited its influence for their becoming contributing community citizens, pined for it when living out of state, and returned joyfully to live among good neighbors again.

Despite the optimism in the air, are there remaining problems in neighborhoods? Of course. But, as one speaker stressed, you can’t “fix” it if you’re not a part of it. Everyone who presented or attended left with a sense of belonging and a determination to be active in their neighborhoods. These are people who truly believe in the interconnectedness of Greenville’s citizens and neighborhoods.

The conclusion from the conference is that Greenville’s future depends on all of us. We need to meet with one another, share resources and information, and then effect necessary changes. You can stay connected at

Key participants
Ann Maxwell, Chair, Neighborhood Advisory Board
Laura Searfoss, Neighborhood Liaison, Ombudsman
Jerry Weitz, Director, Urban and Regional Planning Program, ECU
Gary Fenton, Director, Recreation & Parks Department
Marsha Wyly, Chair, Public Transportation and Parking Commission
Melissa Tilley, Glen Arthur Neiborhood Association
Vince Bellis, College Court/Coghill Neighborhood Association
Joni Torres, Pitt County Gardening Technician
Jimmye Jones, President, Eppes Alumni Association & longtime Greenville resident
Chris Nunnally, Westside Cello School, & longtime Greenville resident

Merrill Flood, Director, Community Development
Terry Shank, Drexelbrook/Oakmont Neighborhood Association
Marvin Arrington, Human Relations Council

Key event planners
Dede Carney, Brenda Diggs, Lillian Outterbridge, Bonnie Snyder, Melissa Tilley

Additional websites
City of Greenville
Making Pitt Fit, community gardening brochure
TRUNA, Tar River University Neighborhood Association
CCCNA, College Court/Coghill Neighborhood Association

Added 28 March: See the City of Greenville’s Community Development website here for presenter contact information and slideshows.

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