Rededicated Friendship House
ignites an explosion of caring
For release March 2, 2011
A front door left open with no worries.
Children playing in a front yard.
A police officer saying how much safer the neighborhood is now.
These are a few of the signs of renewal in Shreveport’s historic Highland neighborhood, site of Community Renewal’s first Friendship House and now site of the latest Friendship House restoration.
“What is happening here is an exciting explosion of caring,” said new community coordinator Emmitt Welch, who started working out of the Friendship House this year with his wife, Sharpel.
The impact of reaching out to families and youth, and connecting caring neighbors as partners in renewal, is a safer neighborhood with a true sense of community.
“I’ve been in Highland 15 years and things have drastically changed,” said Shreveport Police Cpl. Amy Bowman. “The Friendship House definitely helps make this a safer community. Crime rates go down when neighbors know each other.”
A new report from the Shreveport Police Department bears that out: Total crime in the Highland neighborhood in the immediate area around the two Friendship Houses has dropped 55 percent, comparing rates from one year before the first Friendship House opened to the most recent statistics available. During the same time frame, crime fell 25 percent citywide.
A few weeks ago, Anjanette Jones walked away from her house with the front door wide open – and did not even worry about it.
“I feel secure here. My children play outside and I do not worry. This neighborhood feels so much like a family that I will not ever want to leave,” said Jones, who lives near the Friendship House, which is a second home for her. She has two sons involved there and she is an active volunteer.
“We are looking out for each other now. The Friendship House is helping us become a “Friendship Community.’”
Children in the neighborhood are thankful for the two Friendship Houses in Highland. Sandra Simpson focuses on elementary-age children at her house, while the other house hosts the Youth Club for teenagers.
“I feel loved and respected here,” said Keionna Cheatham, 11, who attends J.S. Clark Middle School.
Friend and schoolmate Tashaity Thomas, 12, said the Friendship House brings people together. “If we are not happy at home, we know we can come here. This is a home away from home,” she said.
Emmitt Welch, a former pastor with extensive experience in working with youth, moved into Highland with a passion for helping teenagers, as well as their families.
“We will give them the tools for life’s journey and we will do it with love. We want them to be productive citizens now and forever,” he said.
“They have made clear to me the father figure is absent in their lives and they are seeing me as that father figure. It’s a natural for me. All they want is a little love and a little love goes a long way.”
This new chapter of renewal in Highland started at the Friendship House, which is a large older home that was in need of some physical renewal itself. Among the volunteers who tackled many jobs at the house were the employees of Red River Land Services, Twin Cities Development and JPD Energy.
“Even if you can’t give financially, you can give your time. Then you feel good about what you’ve done. And now it’s incredible to see this house,” said Sarah Rose, who volunteered with her husband, Casey, and others from JPD Energy.
Other groups have also volunteered for other service projects in the neighborhood. Andrew Mulford, an independent insurance broker, has helped Community Renewal through his church, Broadmoor Baptist, and returned earlier this year with the Shreveport Leadership program from the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. They helped Highland neighbors, including a woman who is an evacuee from Hurricane Katrina.
“I love this cause and mission. You are on the ground setting results and I want to be a part of it,” Mulford said. “This has both an immediate and long-term impact. Knowing our community is a better place and lives are being changed by caring acts is our reward.”