Darryl Carrington has a vision for Fairmount Neighborhood, the place he’s called home for the past 10 years. Carrington works at Wichita State University and Fairmount, located just across 17th Street from the campus, is close enough for him to walk to work each day. Carrington’s vision is that soon, he won’t walk to the campus alone. Instead he’ll be one of many Fairmount residents headed to campus each weekday morning, either as employees or students.

For his vision to come true, Carrington understands he’s got work to do. That kind of vision requires a thriving and healthy neighborhood where people feel safe, are active and engaged in their community.

Carrington, a long-time and active member of the Fairmount Neighborhood Association, is the new Community Liasion between WSU and Fairmount Neighboorhood. Now he’s paid to do more than just dream about a better Fairmount Neighborhood; he’s paid to help make it happen. His position as community liaison is made possible through a $25,000 three-year grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. The grant is part of KHF’s Community Engagement Initiatives, which seeks to help Kansas residents develop plans to improve their communities.

The grant, awarded to the WSU Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs and the WSU Foundation, is a great match for the University. Last year, WSU President John Bardo launched what he called the “Enough is Enough” Task Force to create safe, economically vibrant neighborhoods around the campus. In part, Bardo was inspired to launch the “Enough is Enough” Campaign after the death of 36-year-old Letitia Davis who was raped and set on fire in Fairmount Park a year ago–Nov. 14, 2014.

The grant funds are to be used to improve safety and the quality of life in the neighborhoods surround WSU and the university decided to begin their efforts in Fairmount.

“The grant gives us the resources we need to really think about how we can support the neighborhood, eliminate barriers and help spark some energy back in to the community,” says Misty Bruckner, director of the Hugo Wall School’s Public Policy and Management Center.

Carrington was brought on board to take charge of day-to-day activities, including setting up meetings with Fairmount neighborhood residents to learn what improvements they want to make, and to make the projects happen.

In August he held his first meeting with Fairmount residents and “took the temperature” of the community. The next day, he met with the project leadership team, where they worked to discern what they heard.

While the project is community driven, the project leadership team included community residents, plus a cross section of individuals with interest in the community and/or expertise that can benefit the project. Team members include representatives from the City of Wichita, Northeast Wichita community leaders, representatives from businesses in the neighborhood and the major owners of property in the area. 

Carrington and the team have developed an action plan they will present to the neighborhood on Thurs. evening Nov. 19. Here’s some of what they’re proposing to increase the safety and quality of life in the neighboorhood. 

Address code enforcement through a community-driven program. The plan is to increase the number of resident volunteers who work with the City of Wichita to bring a minimum of 15 homes into compliance.

Increase lighting. Lighting improvements in the area are already well underway. Westar is replacing older light fixtures along 17th, Hillside and 21st streets. A community effort will be the “Neighborhood Front Porch Light” program that encourages residents to light their homes at night. Carrington is working on a way to fund free light bulbs and services to help people repair inoperable light fixtures.

Education and Employment. The plan here is to offer education and employment events within the neighborhood. Educational programs is a pretty easy offer for a university. A bit more of a challenge is identifying and offering programs that the community members are interested in and can benefit from.

Business Development. With the WSU campus almost doubling in size, there will be a great need for additional businesses in communities supporting the university. The goal of the plan is to make sure businesses that interest the neighbors are included and that opportunities for small business ownership is built into the plan. Expect a completed comprehensive business survey by June 2016.

Community Engagement. All of the above programs are designed to increase community engagement, but the measurable goal of the program is to improve community involvement by 20%.

The Fairmount Engagement grant is just one part of the University’s efforts under the “Enough is Enough” Program led by former University Chief Counsel Ted Ayres. After his retirement earlier this year, Ayres is back on campus on a part-time basis heading the University’s Office of Community Engagement Opportunity and guiding the efforts of the University’s Shocker Neighborhood Coalition.

While the Fairmount Program is a community lead effort, the Shocker Neighborhood Coalition is a university based effort to improve and support the surround neighborhoods. The coalitions is composed of approximately eight to 10 WSU staff members and students addressing questions and proposing solutions relating to each of the following areas as it relates to improving the communities surrounding the university: law enforcement, health and well-being, community relations, social issues, economic development.

“Our success and future are tied in every way to the success of the surround area,” said WSU President John Bardo at the announcement of the task force formation. “We know we have the expertise and capacity on this campus to help.”

Stay tuned for updates. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.