Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Photos: Far East Dallas residents given library after 17 years
Part of the Ferguson Road Initiative, the library is a component of an complete economic revitalization for an area plagued with crime and poverty.
A dream 17 years in the making is finally coming true for far East Dallas residents. The White Rock Hills Branch Library will officially open its doors on June 16, marking a milestone for a community that has been working to re-establish itself.
Far East Dallas is an ethnically and economically diverse area that has struggled with poverty, school underperformance, and crime. After Claremont resident Vikki Martin had a bicycle stolen from her garage nearly two decades ago, she knew it was time for action. She helped revitalize the neighborhood crime watch and coordinated a series of town hall meetings. She recalls the historic town hall meeting in 1995 where they first identified the lack of community services.
“We discovered this area had been underserved for decades,” said Martin. “That is when we first envisioned the idea of a library.”
From the town hall meetings, the Ferguson Road Initiative (FRI) was born, becoming a non-profit in 1998. The organization set a vision of complete economic revitalization of the area. Through a series of Weed and Seed federal grants, the organization was able to help funnel money to mobilize law enforcement in high crime areas. They saw an immediate drop in crime, 25% overall.
Grants also allowed them to add educational programs for some of the struggling schools, mainly Bayles Elementary, with after-school mentoring, drug and gang prevention education, and family field trips.
The opening of the White Rock Hills branch library completes the next step toward the organization’s vision to bring social services back to this community of more than 73,000 residents along the boundaries of Garland Road, 635, and I-30.
“It’s going to become a civic center,” predicted Martin, now FRI’s president. “We certainly expect to have programming that will bring families and children together that will help enhance their learning. It’s something the community can be very proud of.”
This 27th branch of the Dallas Public Library System is Silver LEED Certified, a designation given for its high level of green attributes. Its biggest feature, and the one most visitors will notice, is daylight harvesting. The building utilizes a combination of floor-to-ceiling windows and energy efficient dropped lighting to maintain consistent lighting. The windows, with alternating panes of colored glass, not only are aesthetically pleasing from the outside, but offer beautiful views of the surrounding trees from the inside.
The library offers many amenities for the community that have been lacking, including public computers; free wi-fi access; separate teen, adult and children’s areas; classroom space; and a meeting room with a kitchenette. Library programs, such as adult ESL classes and toddler storytime, will be implemented immediately.
“There are all ages here, from babies all the way up to senior citizens. We want to be able to serve all the community,” said branch Manager Sharon King.
Community leaders and partners were invited out for a preview reception at the facility on May 24, where Mayor Mike Rawlings praised them for their efforts. “You’re creating a legacy for this neighborhood that’s transformative, that will make a difference not only for today but for generations to come,” he said.
A bigger celebration is planned for the grand opening, starting with a community parade led by African drummers and dancers. The official ribbon cutting ceremony will take place afterward. From there, community members can investigate the new facility, participate in arts activities, and check out some books. Children are invited to dress as their favorite storybook characters.
The library is accessible from Ferguson Road via a new access road next to the White Rock Church of Christ. Opening day events will start at 9:30 a.m. on June 16.
Now that one dream has come true, FRI will turn their focus toward their next vision – building a recreation center. Land has already been secured for the multi-generational super facility near the intersection of Highland Road and Ferguson. The grounds will include a trail system they hope will eventually feed into the Katy Trail.
“This is a great story of what people can do when they work hard and they work together,” Martin said.
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