Hope Hoyle Howard, one of the original founders of Citizens Aligned to Take Back Henderson, NC, was on Tuesday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss recent job developments and positive growth in Vance County.
Founded by Howard and fellow members Tommy Haithcock and Heidi Owen four years ago, the goal of the group was to bring positive change to the community.
“At first, there was some confusion with our name and questions of who we were trying to take the community back from,” said Howard. “We explain that the name represents wanting to take Henderson back to a time when everyone was proud of the community, a time when we looked out for our neighbors and did what was best for the next person.”
Tired of hearing the negative talk on Henderson’s crime rate, dilapidated buildings, unemployment and business outlook, the group started a Facebook page in 2015. Today, the page includes posts designed to bring attention to areas in the community that need work and to help educate the community on the positives of the area.
“Starting off, we didn’t have that many people behind us, but we earned peoples’ trust and pushed and pushed until we were heard,” Howard said.
“It’s paid off, and we now have over 3,200 members on our Facebook page, many who are active, if not daily, weekly.”
Howard feels the concern Citizens Aligned expressed with the abandoned Howard Johnson property on Parham Road in Henderson was a huge catalyst for why the remains of the hotel were demolished. According to the group’s Facebook page, “every time an abandoned, dilapidated crime-riddled building is removed Henderson becomes a better, safer place to live.”
“We have a great backing between the City Council, the Mayor’s Office and the County,” said Howard. “The City and County have really come together to take down many of the jointly-owned [dilapidated] properties. We’ve got to get the code enforcement where it needs to be to continue this process.”
Mayor Eddie Ellington said Citizens Aligned does a good job of holding local governmental offices accountable for multiple situations. “They will bring various issues, such as dilapidated properties, to our attention or ask for follow-up on a situation. They are my friends and I know what they’re doing is for the betterment of our hometown.”
Recent postings to their Facebook page show the group is proud of job growth in Henderson, including the current construction of an Aldi on Dabney Road. The Aldi sign has been installed and the new grocery store will bring job opportunities, along with another shopping option, to area residents.
Howard points to other positives including the beginning of the cleanup and rebuilding process for the Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant that was destroyed in a fire in November, the recent addition of a “thriving” Planet Fitness and the 84-acre extension of the Henderson-Vance Industrial Park located off US-1.
Howard can tell the group’s research and inquiries have made a difference by the number of phone calls she receives from other towns complimenting Citizens Aligned and asking for suggestions. “It is the biggest compliment when someone reaches out to us to ask how we’ve accomplished what we have done here and asks how they can get started in their town.”
The first step in getting started with such a group, according to Howard, is to focus on positive change. “When we formed, we didn’t want to be just another group that points out the negatives. We wanted to find the good, and there is so much good in our city and our county.”
To hear the Town Talk interview with Hope Hoyle Howard in its entirety, please click here. Howard’s portion of the interview begins at the 14:00 mark.
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