Save Our Springfield: Making It Happen at Miss Maggies

August 10, 2010 29 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Following four years of divisive and self destructive behavior from the leadership of the historic district of Springfield, the neighborhood found itself isolated, divided, and incredibly, with more historic homes endangered than ever before. Hundreds of historic homes had been slated for demolition and a third of the neighborhood had been declared a toxic ash zone. On top of that deep fissures had appeared between neighbors that had created a descent into acrimony and stalemate. Sick of the politics and shenanigans, groups of neighbors began to step up and take matters into their own hands, and within weeks the true heart of the neighborhood was finally visible again. One of the most encouraging signs to come from the area in years took place recently: the concerted neighborhood effort to rescue the deteriorating home of Miss Maggie, an elderly resident since the 1960s. Join MetroJacksonville with a photo essay of how the neighborhood came together and started the healing process.

It started on July 20th, 2010, when the following email went out from resident Nicole Lopez

Setting the Record Straight:
I do not subscribe to negativity and past practices that may or may not have occurred in Historic Springfield.  I live in the here and now and focus on pro-activeness and making things happen.  I am a do-er and believe all things are possible keeping the attitude of "why not?" and "just do it."  I believe every person in and outside of Historic Springfield is integral in the battle for preservation.  I believe that people working together for a common goal is most important in the bigger picture.  I believe setting aside differences makes that happen.  

Here are the facts:

I am a part-time Springfield resident.  I grew up in RURAL Vermont and am very familiar with "small town living," which I see and live while here in Historic Springfield.  I bought my first home on Ionia Street in 2007.  Gutted and riddled with code violations, I received the "Certificate of Occupancy" in October of 2008.  
I am passionate about houses.  I believe that homes are living breathing entities.  I believe every house has a story.  I believe with the right person and resources, they all can be saved, except the most severely damaged i.e. fire.  I believe Historic Springfield houses should boarded and secured and not put on a track for demolition if the code violations are not resolved in the required time.  
I complained often and as loud as I could when I learned a house was demolished or on the verge of demolition.  I complained online with the forum board,  I complained to SPAR by calling on the phone.  Brenda incited me to do something about it.  And so I did.  Or rather, so I am trying.  I am not in this alone, there is a backing of folks who are in this campaign with me.  

Here is how it went down:
I advertised a Community Preservation Meeting on, facebook, and SPAR put it in their newsletter and website.  Brenda contacted HPC and distributed an invitation I created, I called code enforcement.  On July 14th various people from the city and community met in an interactive workshop type "meeting" brainstorming ways to "Make it Happen" and ultimately "Save Our Springfield."  I facilitated the meeting.  We discussed the following:  demolitions, preservation, reclaiming and reusing materials, land banking, securing funding, community beautification projects, communication, advertising, and saving the trees in the park.  Attendees stayed in groups where they felt they were most passionate or most needed.  There were four groups.  After the July 14 meeting groups met on their own to continue the discussion and brainstorm process.  Everyone began working on plans to "Make it Happen."  Plans that included viable solutions and a time line for completion.

The result so far:
An awareness is in the making.  It all started with a red heart on an open, abandoned property that everyone ignored as it sat available looters to steal it's historical artifacts.  Finally, it was boarded up guerrilla style and tagged with a red heart of love.  The heart became contagious and you will see it  (red hearts on stakes with S.O.S.) on endangered homes in Springfield that are likely to meet up with a bulldozer in the near future as they carry the green demolition tag.  There are at least 5 homes that have been graced with hearts in the last week.  
Various neighborhood beautification "random acts" on vacant lots and abandoned homes is continuing to happen.  Signs of love, peace, and happiness are popping up all over the hood, literally.  Gardens in the strangest of places appear.  Soon the appearance of eminent disregard will disappear.  And mind you this is all contagious; the love and beautification.  
HPC and Code Enforcement is aware a group of concerned people connected to Historic Springfield are stepping up to the plate.  The Sunshine Law is being utilized.  Constructive conversation is happening.

A "Make it Happen" project is already calendared for July 31st.  This is the most exciting of all.  A house on the east side, owned by an elderly woman, is in desperate need of attention.  This house, has the potential to land in the system if it is not loved soon.  Can you imagine what stress this could cause?  We are on it.  Paint, repair and landscaping are going to happen as the solicitation of volunteers and donations continues.  It's a neighborhood work day, a effort to preserve history and save a home that so needs attention.  That's right; key word, preservation.

How can you support?
Be positive.  Keep the past as the past and stop bitching.  Find a way to "make it happen."  Can you volunteer or make a material donation for the work party on July 31st?  As simple as a potted plant donated for the porch is a help.  Know someone who can provide lunch to volunteers?  Bring it on.  Have some extra materials in your garage?  I'll come pick them up (local pick-up.)

Then according to Gloria DeVall, whose iconic thrift store is one of the few remaining businesses on Main Street,

Through Metrojacksonville, many people heard about the "Make it Happen!" event and followed it with interest.  We received a donation, people showed up at the site to watch and participate , and remarkably enough, none of these people had ties to Springfield.  Their only connection to us was through reading about the daily drama on the Springfield thread.

Metrojacksonville is a city-wide forum which tackles large issues -- yet there is room for this little neighborhood and all of its quirky dreams and schemes.  Thank you MJ for the attention.

The end of the first day, Nicole sent out the following message:

It takes a village to raise a child.

It takes a neighborhood to raise up a community.
We have done that.

There is grace in giving.

Thank you so much to the 50+ people who came out to work and preserve Miss Maggie's historic home.
Whether you stayed for a lot or whether you stayed for a few.  Thank you.
Whether you donated materials, food, drink, or cash, thank you.

Had the rain held off, I know we would have finished right around the 4 p.m. mark.  Volunteers worked THAT hard.

If you are down for the cause and can make it, see you tomorrow at:
8 a.m. to noon
August 1, 2010
Miss Maggie's

The end result:

And finally:

Here are the facts:
SACARC: when I saw a dog (Tengo) on the property (who looked very ill,) I contacted a SACARC friend and asked if they could make a new home/play area for him.  Tengo stayed at my house for a few days, SACARC made him a new dog area (I have a photo,) it included a stepping stone slab, fresh pine needles and a dog tether with plenty of room to move around. They left dog food too, I bought him a leash and harness. They transported him to a vet for a check up: I paid for that via a SACARC donation.  He needs ongoing treatment as he is high heartworm positive, has fleas as well.  He also needs to be fixed. At least one person, maybe 2 have given donations for Tengo's needed treatment.  SACARC is going to continue to work with Tengo at Miss Maggie's home (it is her grand-daughter's who lives with her,) to make sure the dog does not succumb to death due to heartworm.  If anyone wants to make donations for Tengo they can at
Have I mentioned how incredibly professional and intelligent these woman are about animals??!!

I was invited by Jon Fabiano to attend the Garden Club Meeting (part of the Woman's Club.) I attended and gave a plug for the "Make it Happen" Project of Preservation.  I gave them the address, the request for volunteers and donations.  I know at least 5 members of the garden club were present to help landscape.  Jon spearheaded the whole vision.  He is incredibly gifted.  There were also members of the women's club there as well.

I should also plug Springfield's newest non-profit "Sustainable Springfield." One of their members made a tomato planter for Miss Maggie out of recycled materials from the hood.

I am sure Gloria has already mentioned the work of Team Recovery.  They worked every hour we where there without complaint or fail.  We could not have completed the project without them.

And then there were numerous folks there from the neighborhood who came to help and pitch in, others who left monetary donations for materials and supplies who could not attend, others who dropped by water and snacks, others who dropped off materials, supplies, and landscape goods.

There were folks outside of historic springfield who helped to.

It is fair to say we had 60 volunteers, as on Sunday other folks came out who were not there on Saturday, and each day, people trickled in through-out the day.

COMPLETELY overwhelming the love and support for this project of preservation.

Please include too that follow up is planned with Miss Maggie.  It was not just a jump on jump off project.  Jon is going to continue to work on the the garden and upkeep until it is established.  SACARC is continuing to work with Tengo, Joan from the neighborhood is "Miss Maggie's advocate" to help her as needed.  i.e. her refigerator broke and Jim from the neighborhood has offered to give her a 2 year old refrigerator that will be delivered this week.  Joan will be the "sit on the porch" and make sure everything is okay with Miss Maggie.

It goes on and on.

As Joan Mayberry put it:

This is exactly why Springfield is, hands down, the best neighborhood with the greatest neighbors. It's the coming together of neighbors, giving without asking for nothing in return.

We couldnt possible say it any better.