Amos volunteers assess needs
ONE MORE FOR THE LIST Mike Dobrosky, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, adds this house at 2005 33rd Ave. to his list of Amos Network projects. More than 50 Amos volunteers spread out over Meridian Saturday looking for all types of problems from cracked sidewalks to abandoned appliances. Photo by Kyle Carter / The Meridian Star.
By Steve Gillespie /staff writer
Oct. 12, 2003
More than 50 people spread out in Meridian neighborhoods Saturday, armed with clipboards and pens, to document cracks in sidewalks, torn-up roads, abandoned appliances and properties in need of repair.
It wasn't a scavenger hunt.
It's what is known as a "neighborhood audit" and it was performed by members of the Amos Network a nonsectarian, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic coalition of church members and other citizens determined to identify and resolve community problems.
Auditors were trained with the help of Judy Phillips, a research assistant with Mississippi State University's John C. Stennis Institute of Government.
The neighborhoods being audited first are home to high-minority, low-income residents. Phillips said that is typically where more problems such as badly cracked sidewalks, holes in the street and serious garbage dumping issues are found.
Phillips said repairs sometimes go undone because the problems are not reported to the proper people.
Amos volunteers met Saturday morning at Poplar Springs United Methodist Church. Another audit is scheduled to take place next Saturday.
Information from the audit will be presented to city officials, allowing more people to have a voice in the community.
Jerry Johnson, 38, of Meridian, holds a part-time position as organizer of the local group. He is pastor of Springhill Baptist Church in Kewanee. His position with Amos began July 1.
Efforts to organize a local Amos chapter began more than two years ago.
Johnson said action teams concentrate on four areas of concern defined by the group: community development; economic development; senior adult concerns; and youth concerns.
Under senior adult concerns, he said Amos will investigate whether elderly people have adequate transportation and accessibility to their homes. Under youth concerns, Amos will make sure children have safe areas to play in and good lighting in their neighborhoods.
He is currently working to increase the involvement of blacks in the Amos Network. Meridian's Amos group started with 15 local churches.
He said he is not sure why some of the black community has backed away from the network especially since the black community stands to benefit a great deal from Amos' work. He said he believes membership will grow as the organization begins to make visible changes.
Mike Dobrosky, rector of the Church of the Mediator, helped to get Amos started locally just as he did in Jackson several years ago.
He also believes Amos' numbers will grow as community audits continue.
Amos Networks typically start with community audits like the one done Saturday in Meridian, said Gerald Taylor, regional director of the Industrial Areas Foundation or IAF.
IAF, based in Chicago, was contracted to give technical assistance to Amos' organizing efforts.
Taylor played a major role in pulling churches and volunteers together to begin the local organization. He was in Meridian Saturday to see how the audit was going. He said eventually all of Meridian and Lauderdale County will be audited the same way.
He said there have been some exceptional responses in the South from governments that have streamlined their approach to community concerns.
Johnson said local elected officials appear to be watching Amos, for now, to see if the members are serious about making change possible.