Eastdale residents work for a better community after shootings

Maya Stone, one of five members of the CSO Wind Quintet, plays a sample sound for attendees at the Eastdale Youth Development Center on Thursday in a community engagement concert.
photo A'Niyah Bennett , near left, tests her skills on a trombone Thursday at the Eastdale Youth Development Center. Raymia Cal, center, and Keaisha Robinson wait to get in a note. The instruments are part of the CSO Instrument Petting Zoo, according to Sarah Marczynski, community engagement and education manager. "The purple violin (held by Cal) was donated the week Prince passed away, so it's a tribute to him," Marczynski said. "People that want to donate instruments, please contact us at the CSO."

Violence is hitting communities throughout Chattanooga, but it will not define the Eastdale area, said Greg Walden, president of the Foxwood Heights neighborhood association.

The longtime resident worked through his association to secure a $2,300 neighborhood grant from the Benwood Foundation to bring the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra to the Eastdale Youth and Development Center.

It was the second time the orchestra's woodwind section visited the center for a mini concert. The event is one of many cultural activities Walden wants to see regularly in the area that includes Eastdale and Foxwood Heights.

His goal is to bring more, to have so many cultural and educational events that there is no time for violence.

He spoke just days after the city's 14th homicide and more than 60 shootings in less than six months.

"Eventually the violence will stop. We as a community believe that," Walden said.

Jobs stop bullets, he said.

"We want Eastdale to be recognized as a family community with a bright outlook," Walden said.

He isn't working alone.

The Rev. Elton Young, pastor of Mount Paran Missionary Baptist Church, and his members set up a table at the center inviting youth to Vacation Bible School scheduled June 6-10 and Jessie Igou, secretary for the Eastdale Neighborhood Association discussed preparations for the Eastdale community garden that will be planted near the center this month. The garden is funded by a grant from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department. Residents may get produce from the garden at no charge, she said.

Violence ends when more people invest more time with youth on a daily basis, said Tracy Johnson, a cook for Sunset Barbecue.

Johnson grilled hotdogs for youth attending the concert.

Longtime Eastdale resident Mary Convington prepared free slushies and CSO Community and Patron Engagement Manager Sarah Marczynski greeted children and showed off the symphony's "instrument petting zoo."

"It's fun to see kids with the instruments. Some of them have never picked up a trombone or a violin before," she said as youth tried playing the instruments.

Pastor Young started the event with a prayer.

"Lord, strengthen us as a community and move us in the right direction," he said.

Then the music started.

A marching song by John Philip Sousa, then "Under Sea" from "The Little Mermaid," and Scott Joplin's "Ragtime."

Nine-year-old Sy'Taishia Eberhardt was among several students sitting on the front row.

"I like the music that's playing and the food they provided," she said.

The Eastdale Youth and Family Development Center has new playground equipment, a new outdoor fitness area and it's getting programming to assist residents with diabetes, Walden said, pointing out neighborhood improvements.

"We're offering more positive things to do within the community," he said.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at [email protected] or 423-757-6431.