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Mother, daughter make neighborhood a priority

August 02, 2010|By JANET HEIM
  • Tammy Sodergren, left, and her mother, Anna Barnhart, are members of the Locust Point Neighborhoods First group in Hagerstown.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer,

Anna Barnhart has always lived on Ray Street in the Locust Point neighborhood north of Bester Elementary School. Her father was born and died on the same street.

It's those lifelong ties that got Barnhart involved with the Locust Point Neighborhoods First group, which includes her next-door neighbor, Tammy Sodergren, who just happens to be her daughter. Barnhart's mother lives with the Sodergren family.

The mother-daughter duo has been volunteering with the neighborhood group for more than three years. Barnhart, 60, is treasurer, while Sodergren, 44, is vice president.

They credit President Lynda Evans with providing the spark that keeps them going.

"They are both very outspoken and have worked very hard," Evans wrote in an e-mail. "If they hadn't been such a reliable support to me, I would never have agreed to continue as president this year."

Barnhart said that while she was growing up, her neighborhood was filled with homeowners, many of whom had family living nearby.

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"Everybody watched over everybody," she said.

The neighborhood group was started through the City of Hagerstown's Community Development office.

The boundaries of the Locust Point neighborhood, with its approximately 400 homes, include the south side of Baltimore Street, Mulberry Street from Five Corners to Potomac Street to South Street to Memorial Boulevard, including Bester Elementary School.

Barnhart, whose maiden name is Knodle, attended Antietam Elementary School, while Sodergren and her children -- two adult daughters -- went to Bester Elementary.

Sodergren and her husband of 28 years, Richard, historian of the Locust Point Neighborhoods First group, also have two foster children.

Anna and Marshall Barnhart have been married 25 years.

Both women attended South Hagerstown High School, but didn't graduate.

Barnhart has been a crossing guard for Washington County Public Schools for 18 years, stationed mornings and afternoons at Fairground Avenue and North Locust Street, as well as the intersection of Ray and North Locust streets.

Sodergren, whose maiden name is Watson, earned an adult education diploma, then went to Hagerstown Business College to study medical assisting.

"Our main goal is to get neighbors to join together, to make it a better, safer neighborhood," Sodergren said.

The group has worked with the Hagerstown Police Department to increase police presence and response time in the area. Barnhart and Sodergren are concerned about what appears to be an increase in drug dealing in the neighborhood.

Improved street lighting, a new Locust Point sign on South Potomac Street and planting trees are a few of the ways they hope to increase safety and visibility, and beautify the neighborhood.

Now they're trying to get the speed limit reduced in an alley where a child on a bike recently was hit by a car.

The community group, with a core of about 12, also plans a summer block party for residents and a harvest party for neighborhood children.

At times, they grow frustrated. Meetings, held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at Congregation B'nai Abraham on Baltimore Street, are poorly attended and the leaders feel like the bulk of the work is left to them.

"Other times, we say we went this far, we can keep going," Sodergren said.

The latest project is to try to put a neighborhood cookbook together as a fundraiser, but the group is far short of the 200 recipes needed to make it happen.

Information about the Locust Point Neighborhoods First group may be obtained by calling Evans at 301-992-6943; Anna Barnhart at 301-791-2387; or Tammy Sodergren at 240-217-5393.

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