Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Who are Unsung Heroes in Highland Park?

Highland Park is the neighborhood resting in the South Eastern corner of the Delridge District. Two community groups strive to help keep the neighborhood connected and doing good things. One of them is the Highland Park Improvement Club. Another is the Highland Park Action Committee. Our nominees come from both groups.

Who are they? What are they doing? Here is what we learned culling through the nomination applications:

  Betsy Harris has been involved in Public Safety issues in her Highland Park neighborhood for a number of years. She was a very active leader in the Weed & Seed program in south Delridge and White Center.

She has led community efforts to have liquor licenses revoked, she has led groups in formulating good neighbor agreements with problem businesses in Highland Park and she is a strong voice for the community within the SW Precinct Advisory council.

  Blair Johnson has volunteered in multiple capacities for over nine years, making Highland Park a better place and contributing to re-visioning the Highland Park Improvement Club. He organized a Highland Park Summit. This gathering introduced many residents and groups to each other — Riverview and White Center, public safety activists, youth mentors, artists, and Highland Park Improvement Club, which then was languishing. Highland Park Action Committee solicited and documented everyone’s ideas for creating a vibrant community.

 In 2008 the community united in response to proposed nearby City Jail sites. Blair supported and advised the many committed activists during the opposition effort under new Chair Dorsol Plants. Knowing that well-maintained properties reduce vandalism, Blair keeps up his corner (and is generous with handyman’s advice). He has been simply good friend to so many neighbors — always willing to listen and lend a hand.


Julie Schickling led the double face lift at the Highland Park Improvement Club, making it relevant to the neighborhood in the 21st century. After renting the Highland Park Improvement Club Hall for a party in 2002, she re-imagining its value to the community. The building and membership had been around Dumar’s Highland Park Addition since 1919, but in the early 2000’s older members were moving away, passing away, and loosing the momentum that had carried them through the 1900’s.

After Julie began attending club meetings in 2006 it became clear that new membership was critical to save the building for the neighborhood, so she began sending out pleas to neighbors, “Come to these meetings, get involved, or the old hall will be lost!”

Highland Park Action Committee chair Blair Johnson petitioned to hold HPAC monthly meetings at the HPIC hall. Julie led the membership in a vote of support to extend the use of the hall free of charge to this grassroots group. This led to HPIC/HPAC co-hosting our first neighborhood summit, bringing citizens of Highland Park/Riverview together to vision what directions we wanted to see our neighborhood taking.

In 2008, led by Julie’s election to the HPIC board as Treasurer, change began to grow in earnest in the little dance hall. She envisioned a facility that would serve as a “heart” to the neighborhood, a focal point for civic engagement and community resource development. She did not just speak eloquently on these issues, she rolled up her sleeves and worked behind the scenes to help organize community events such as dances, classes and a Farmer's Market.

  Carolyn Stauffer is a driving force to be reckoned with in the Highland Park neighborhood. She and her husband are the present Chairs of the Highland Park Action Committee. In addition to being a mom to two little ones (including a new born) she leads this neighborhood council. She also was the driving force behind getting funding for a new Spray-park at the Highland park.

She spent countless hours spearheading this project as well convincing the Parks department to allocate more funds to do the project right since it was underfunded at first. She also was very instrumental in guiding the community side of the process in the West Crest reservoir levy project. And she does all of this with a smile and two kids on her hips.

p.s. This post is shared at the North Delridge Neighborhood Council Blog to inspire future Unsung Heroes! If you would like to share this post, please leave a comment.