Good Neighbor Program Kicks Off In East Austin’s Govalle-Johnston Terrace
By Southwest Key on 03/07/2014 @ 06:54 AM
“This neighborhood has changed quite a bit since the early 70s. It’s not as closely knit as it used to be. I used to know everyone and now people just keep to themselves,” says retired firefighter Steven Lewis who grew up in the east Austin neighborhood of Govalle-Johnston Terrace where Southwest Key is headquartered. Lewis spent his career with the Austin Fire Department after graduating in 1973 from Johnston High School, now called Eastside Memorial.
Lewis is also one of nine Govalle-Johnston Terrace residents involved in the Good Neighbor Program. The program is spearheaded by Southwest Key’s new Vice President of Community Impact Roque Barros and Southwest Key Community Organizer Yubelly Perez, but the idea is to get neighbors like Lewis to take charge.
“The purpose of this group is to deepen their engagement in their community by building relationships with their neighbors, says Barros. “ Through building relationships, residents realize that they want the same changes in their communities and that they can work together to create the change they want to see.”
Lewis is committed to making positive changes that will create pride in Govalle-Johnston Terrace. “I want to inspire people to take better care of their homes, properties and this neighborhood,” he says.
“They are just regular folks in the neighborhood with a vision to make a difference,” says Perez who leads trainings that give residents the tools to tell stories, work as a team, and learn how to listen to each other. The program participants are all referred to as Good Neighbors.
“Sometimes titles put too much pressure on participants and start to formalize their roles and they tend to separate folks from each other,” says Barros. “We want them all to stay on the same team.”
The most valuable lesson that Lewis has taken away from participating in the group is learning to communicate more effectively and learning to organize and get people involved. “I want to get people interested to where you can let them express what THEY want and not just what I want and help each other out in this neighborhood,” says Lewis. Lewis’ dad still lives in this community along with several other family members. “I worry about his safety due to his age. I just want to make this neighborhood more safe and attractive, not only for him but for the entire community.”
Barros explains that Southwest Key employees are able to learn more about the neighborhood in which they work through the group meetings. “They will help us meet more people and pave the way for us to become a better neighbor with strong relationships and the willingness to support each other,” says Barros.
“Yubelly and Roque have been a big help so far, they make me comfortable so I can express my thoughts and not feel intimidated,” says Lewis. “They are also transparent and have been honest with us.”
Lewis never paid much attention to Southwest Key before the group and did not realize all the programs the company provides to the community. “You guys are definitely an asset to the neighborhood and I’m looking forward to working with you guys.”