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Neighborhoods 1st celebrates first anniversary

February 17, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown's Neighborhoods 1st program, which helps form community groups and provides money for neighborhood projects, is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its first neighborhood groups this month.

"It's a great program," said Anna Pennesi, president of the Ridge Avenue Neighborhoods 1st group, which was the first group to become part of the program on Feb. 2, 1999.

"I like it because each neighborhood can focus on the issues that are important to that neighborhood," said Pennesi, whose group has focused on improving the Ridge Avenue playground.

A couple of weeks after the Ridge Avenue group formed, the Northwest Neighbors Neighborhoods 1st group formed. There now are five Neighborhoods 1st groups around the city, said Larry Bayer, a city community development coordinator and chairman of the Neighborhoods 1st Committee.

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The other Neighborhoods 1st groups are in downtown, the North End and Jonathan Street communities, Bayer said.

The Neighborhoods 1st program has a $25,000 budget from the city, with $5,000 designated for each of the five groups, Bayer said.

A city staff member is assigned to each group, but "all the work and activity is at the neighborhood level," Bayer said.

"The Neighborhoods 1st program is designed to empower the residents and neighborhoods to take responsibility for the well-being of their neighborhoods," Bayer said.

Bayer said the neighborhood groups have spent about $2,500 so far this year.

He said the Ridge Avenue group has held a couple of neighborhood parties, put up a donated bulletin board at Ridge Avenue park and is working with the City Public Works Department on plans for a picnic pavilion for the park.

The Northwest group, which has members from the Carroll Heights and Hamilton Park areas, is hoping to get new playground equipment for Hamilton Park, Bayer said.

And the downtown group is organizing an outdoor summer movie series, and a carnival at the City Fairgrounds Park.

"We couldn't be any happier with the response and enthusiasm of the groups. Their imagination, dedication and talent is just amazing," Bayer said.

For more information about Neighborhoods 1st call 301-739-8577, extension 191.

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