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Church's youths beautify off the beaten path

Proceeding Word Ministries' pastors organize a community cleanup where kids are in charge.

Published November 4, 2006

[Times photo: Keri Wiginton]
R. J. McDowell, 12, rakes dead grass at the end of Union Street near Wood Drive as part of a neighborhood cleanup last Sunday.

BROOKSVILLE - Pastor Faith Jackson is the kind of man who believes that there's a bright side to even the darkest nights. He's certain that with enough positive energy, even the most troubling situations can be overcome.

All of this led Jackson to his latest mission, which began on a recent morning stroll near his home in south Brooksville.

There he was, standing on a forgotten trash-strewn path near the intersection of Union Street and Wood Drive when he was struck by how, with a little - well, a lot of - sprucing up, the picturesque little park could be the pride of the neighborhood.

The pastor of Proceeding Word Ministries also saw the perfect opportunity to create a positive spark among the younger members in his church by turning the cleanup effort over to them.

"We felt it might help bring a breath of fresh air to the way they see their community," said Jackson, who along with his wife and co-pastor Cynthia Jackson, organized the day-long cleanup effort they called "Operation Beautification" last week.

With a sound system playing gospel music in the background, more than 30 members of the church pitched in to help haul out trash, old car parts and discarded furniture before manning mowers and weed trimmers. By lunch time, the group had picked up enough rubbish to fill a pick-up truck.

"Our hope is that it sends a message to young people that they can make a difference in this community," said Cynthia Jackson. "This is their home and they can choose to make it a nice place to live."

Mrs. Jackson is well-versed in motivating young people. The sister of local pro football hero Jerome Brown, she and her family have been instrumental in providing constructive outlets for the community's youth, believing that positive actions will steer them toward good choices in life.

Jackson hopes that last week's cleanup effort will cause a ripple effect.

"Kids want to do the right thing," she said. "When the proper outlet is provided to them, they'll be there."

In fact, shortly after the work started Jackson said kids came from a nearby apartment asking if they could help, too.

"When people start taking care of a neighborhood it can bring positive change," offered Faith Jackson. "This is what's needed here."

Sixteen-year-old volunteer Nikki Liles agreed. The Hernando High School student, who lives a short distance from the path, was happy to give up her Saturday to help in the effort.

"Before, nobody wanted to come down here except drug dealers," she said. "Now it's a place that everyone can enjoy."

The church leaders aren't done yet. In fact, Faith Jackson says Operation Beautification will be hitting several other spots around south Brooksville in the coming months.

Said Pastor Jackson, "It may be God's work that we're doing, but we'll all be able to benefit from it."

Logan Neill can be reached at 848-1435 or

[Last modified November 3, 2006, 21:52:22]

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