STERLING – The city’s mayor said on Friday he hopes developing Sterling’s neighborhoods and creating a sense of community will improve the quality of life and reduce criminal activity in town.
“I believe that if we want to fight guns and drugs, make Sterling a better place to be, what we have to do is develop again the sense of neighborhood identity,” Mayor Skip Lee said.
Lee is inviting members of the church community to get involved in the neighborhood building effort. It’s part of an effort by the city and WeCAN, the Whiteside Community Action Network, which aims to use community resources to deal with and eradicate drugs and gangs countywide.
Lee is having two meetings this month for church members to discuss their role in developing neighborhoods.
“Churches are a permanent fixture in every neighborhood,” said Lee, president of WeCAN. “What we’d like to start off with is have churches in our city have an open house in April that says, ‘We’re a neighborhood.’”
A WeCAN meeting will be held on Monday night for the community. At the meeting, members will discuss further how churches should be a part of the neighborhood development effort.
That information will then be relayed to the church community at meetings on March 12 and March 19, Lee said.
All church members, not just pastors, are welcome to the meetings, he said.
The goal is for every church in the city to have an open house during a weekend in late April.
“What we’re hoping is, open houses are not religious events,” Lee said. “It’s not about, come to be an Episcopalian. The Grace Episcopal Church is here – wants to help the neighborhood.”
In June, leaders will encourage people to have neighborhood parties, Lee said.
“The ultimate goal is, we want every citizen of Sterling to know their neighbor on both sides, front and back,” he said. “It helps reduce neighborhood conflict; [they are] less likely to have squabbles popping up.”
National Night Out Against Crime will be held in August. In October, WeCAN plans a culmination celebration of the neighborhood events, Lee said.
The mayor said he wants residents to have a sense of responsibility for their neighborhoods. City officials play a role in that too, he said.
“We want people to contact us,” he said. “[It’s] Another way of making sure that we can reach in neighborhoods and know what’s going on.”
A meeting of the Whiteside Community Action Network will begin at 7 p.m. Monday at Sterling Public Library, 102 W. Third St. Members of the public are invited.
Church leaders are invited to attend informational meetings, at 7 p.m. March 12 and March 19, also at the Sterling library, to plan the neighborhood development programs.