published Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Walk of Blessings to draw attention to Alton Park needs

Lurone "Coach" Jennings, executive director of the Bethlehem Center and event organizer, right, and Elizabeth Tallman-Gazaway, Bethlehem Center administrator and event coordinator, speak about the Bethlehem Center's Community Walk of Blessings in front of one of the stops, the Big H Food Store, early Thursday morning. Participants in the 5k walk/run will pray while traveling on foot through different spots in South Chattanooga.
Lurone "Coach" Jennings, executive director of the Bethlehem Center and event organizer, right, and Elizabeth Tallman-Gazaway, Bethlehem Center administrator and event coordinator, speak about the Bethlehem Center's Community Walk of Blessings in front of one of the stops, the Big H Food Store, early Thursday morning. Participants in the 5k walk/run will pray while traveling on foot through different spots in South Chattanooga.
Photo by Dan Henry.

IF YOU GO


• What: Bethlehem Center's Community Walk of Blessings

• When: 8 a.m. today

• Where: Meet at Chattanooga Christian School, 3354 Charger Drive for 5K run/walk

The Rev. Lurone "Coach" Jennings wants people to walk and pray that Alton Park becomes safe and economically efficient.

The $35 million HOPE VI project "gave better housing, but we need to step further," he said. "How do we get people jobs?"

Jennings, executive director of the Bethlehem Center, is hosting the center's Community Walk of Blessings, a 5K walk/run to draw resources to the South Chattanooga community.

The event starts at the Chattanooga Christian School at 8 a.m. today. Participants will walk and run through some of the most blighted and in-need areas in the community.

"We're trying to drive out all the negative things, drugs and violence, and we're trying to take over the community the right way," said Larry High, owner of Bear's Barbershop on Alton Park Boulevard. His business will distribute water during the 5K.

The Rev. Aaron Tolson, assistant pastor of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, is walking with members of his youth group.

"I believe in the power of prayer," he said. "We need to give the (Bethlehem Center) every resource to help bring healing to the Alton Park community."

Group prayers will be held at Big H, a store at the corner of Alton Park Boulevard and West 38th Street, and Calvin Donaldson Elementary School off West 37th Street.

The 5K will end with a meeting to discuss volunteer opportunities in Alton Park and Willie Kitchens, of the R&B vocal group the Impressions, will give a concert.

Walk of Blessings participants may also give a $25 donation to the Bethlehem Center to assist the community, Jennings said.

Lack of jobs, crime and gangs still plague Alton Park, a community that was promised revitalization with the HOPE VI grant in 2000. The project got rid of Spencer J. McCallie homes, the largest public housing site in the city, and put up newly built homes in the Villages at Alton Park. But promises for a commercial corridor on West 38th street and jobs have gone unfulfilled, Jennings said.

Before the Villages of Alton Park were built, residents, the Chattanooga Housing Authority and others spent hours in meetings, planning a new Alton Park in which a grocery store, dry cleaners, hardware store and playground would line West 38th street, but those businesses never materialized, said Milton Jackson, who attended the planning meetings.

And manufacturing plants such as Velsicol, Wheland Foundry and Mueller that once provided jobs for Alton Park residents have closed or relocated, so the community has a high unemployment rate and visible gang and drug activity, residents say.

What affects one community in Chattanooga affects all of Chattanooga, said Jennings.

"If Chattanooga is going to be a great city, we can leave behind no community," said Jennings. "We have to be intentional about helping them."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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amnestiUSAF84 said...

There are drugs in every community. It doesn't matter class, race, social standing or religion. How many of those Alton Park residents would be allowed to walk through the communities of some of those walkers without having someone call police on them to report a suspicious character in the area?

Every community has its share of problems. However, constant focus on what's wrong is a death nail and scares away any chance of a business or businesses considering opening up shop in such an area.

August 27, 2011 at 1:25 a.m.
harrystatel said...

"I'd rather have a pair of hands that work than a thousand lips that pray."

Walking, praying, and excuses are easy; work requires intellect, action, and sweat.

"God is not a cosmic bell-boy for whom we can press a button to get things done." [H.E. Fosdick]

August 27, 2011 at 6:19 a.m.
kingtutley said...

Well said, Harry. You want God to bless your work? Then you must WORK.

August 27, 2011 at 9:43 a.m.
macropetala8 said...

Until the black community stop bashing and giving up on its most promising and natural resource,young black males, they will never rise above their present situation. By being constantly focused on what's wrong in your communities, you've set yourselves up to be ostracized, persecuted and victimized all over again. You have all you need standing right before you to sustain and thrive right in your communities. You just have to open your eyes and see it. Where you see only problems others see potential. Outsiders, even the ones pretending to offer help, are looking at the best and sneakiest way to move in, move you out, and take over in the form of GENTRIFICATION. Remember to be careful what you ask for.

August 27, 2011 at 10:30 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Here's a thought. While walking, running, and praying, give everyone a "prayer sack" (trash bag).

While on bended knee praying for someone else to do the work and to receive manna from taxpayers, grab some of the neighborhood "love offerings" (trash) and ask your supplicants to place them in their "prayer sacks."

Take your prayer sacks and deposit into the "Arc of the Convenience Store" (trashcan), and continue throughout the neighborhood until all love offerings have been collected.

Should anyone be so inclined, take up the "Staff of Life" (broom) and go forth and make "cleanliness next to Godliness", though it doesn't pay as well as government honey and locust.

"Yea, though I walk through the Valley of One Excuse After Another, I shall fear not. Reverend Jackson, Reverend Al, and welfare shall protect me and I shall dwell in the house of handouts forever."

Amen.

August 27, 2011 at 11:19 a.m.
Legend said...

Rev. Jennings is sincere, compassionate, kind and means well, but is obviously out of touch. Jackson makes the entire black community look stupid and a group who just can't seem to get it together. What the black community needs is a good organizer to inject new energy into the black community. To encourage the people to come together and work in harmony. As long as they're looking to outsiders to come in they will never rise above their tragic situation. Everyone who smiles in your face is not necessarily your friend. While seemingly reaching to help lift you up, they're taking more away from you. Seemingly acts of charity and kindness also has its darker side.

August 27, 2011 at 7:47 p.m.
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