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Picking up the challenge

Published March 6, 2007

Sarah Davis picks up trash under a tree on Twigg Street on Saturday. Davis, who lives two streets over on St. Francis Street in a house built in 1960, said she has never wanted to move out of her community. She's determined to make a difference through being a good example.
[Times photo: Keri Wiginton]

The Saturday morning air was chilly beneath the overcast skies and misty drizzle.

It was the kind of morning the faint-hearted and the less committed prefer to stay indoors and warm their feet, do indoor chores and listen to oldies on the radio.

But the parking lot at the Elks Lodge in south Brooksville was crowded with Hernando County Sheriff's Office and code enforcement vehicles and private pickup trucks.

Juanita Badger and Sarah Davis were among those ready with their rubber gloves and black trash bags. They were responding to an invitation from Deputy Dane Jenkins. "We want to show that we're not just about making arrests," said Jenkins, one of two community policing officers who helped organize the south Brooksville cleanup.

It was a three-pronged approach - correction, code enforcement and community improvement. Earlier in the week, inmates from the county jail were out cleaning up streets in south Brooksville. The county code enforcement staff cited trashy property and tore down dilapidated mobile homes. Junky lots were cleared. Now it was time for residents to show they cared about south Brooksville.

This might not matter to folks who live in newly minted, gated communities. But if you've lived in a working class neighborhood without an association to enforce civic pride, you know the frustration of trying to get people to care enough to maintain their property and pick up roadside trash.

Those who live in predominantly black south Brooksville are familiar with that frustration. And they're tired of it.

That's why there's been a new attitude emerging in recent months. That's why on a Friday night not so long ago, folks showed up at a local church for HIV/AIDS testing; why attendance at recent neighborhood meetings with the Sheriff's Office has grown from six to 30.

That's why men in pickups pulled up to haul away old mattresses and other discarded furniture that otherwise would be eyesores at the curb.

The volunteers passed rundown houses and mobile homes that sat next door to well kept ranches. As I walked next to Davis, neither the rain, the trash nor climbing in and out of ditches could dampen her spirit.

Davis, a retired educator and school librarian, could have left south Brooksville a long time ago. But hers was a life of setting a good example. "When you teach third grade, children do what you tell them," Davis said. "I always thought of myself as a help to the neighborhood."

Soon we passed her modest and well kept house on St. Francis Street. The shrubbery looked as if it had been trimmed by a beautician; the red poinsettias from Christmases past brightened the gray morning; the grass was cut low and neat. This will always be her home. "I never felt like leaving," she said.

South Brooksville looks better because she stayed.

Andrew Skerritt can be reached at 813 909-4602 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4602. His e-mail address is

[Last modified March 6, 2007, 06:06:31]

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