MOLINE — In a simpler, less-hectic time, neighborhoods were front and center in a family's world.

Neighbors looked out for neighbors. They shared projects, gathered often, and stood shoulder to shoulder in good times and bad.

The Moline Community Development Corporation believes in the beauty of a caring, concerned, involved and engaged neighborhood.

In a plan hatched by the Moline CDC, with the blessing of city officials and leaders from a variety of neighborhoods, a bevy of beautification projects enhancing Moline neighborhoods have been realized.

And there are more to come.

Leading the charge is Jayne O'Brien, director of the Moline CDC and also the newly elected 4th Ward alderman in East Moline.

"We want to capitalize on the projects that not only make neighborhoods more beautiful, but engage neighbors in talking to each other, impacting the safety of a neighborhood, willingness to help and civic pride,'' O'Brien said, noting that grants from the Moline Foundation, Global Communities and Augustana College helped the projects come to life.

"What we found through this and the steps that have been taken is Moliners are engaged, caring, and want the best for all concerned.''

Recently the Moline CDC joined 20 volunteers in potting 99 of 100 (one didn't make it) plants in containers bearing the Stephens Park logo. The potted plants were distributed to homes in the Stephens Park neighborhood.

Those based in the Floreciente neighborhood worked diligently on selecting images for vertical banners that will be displayed in high traffic areas of the neighborhood.

"What a dynamo Phylicia Manley is,'' O'Brien said of the local marketing guru who guided the Floreciente project. "She is dedicated, like so many others in that neighborhood, to being involved and engaged.''

The Overlook historic neighborhood, led by Jean Edmunds, is working to display American flags and neighborhood flags.

A plan is in motion to enhance sidewalks and place flags throughout the Wheelock-Velie neighborhood this fall.

"The idea of a neighborhood beautification project was embraced by members of our neighborhood group,'' said Bill Abel, president of the Stephens Park Neighborhood Group. "Neighborhood beautification is something that seems to appeal across a wide spectrum of residents, much more so than other types of projects, which we have undertaken in the past.

"We received a number of thank-you notes from local residents who received flower pots. The simple acts of giving and receiving a gift of flowers were well-received by all who participated.''

Abel added that projects of this nature enhance neighborhood relationships and build strong community bonds.

"Our neighborhood group, like a number of others, was originally formed many years ago as a neighborhood crime-watch group,'' he said. "We maintain a close connection with Moline police officer Andrew Raya and his Community Oriented Policing (COP) team.

"With a strong presence of the COP team in the neighborhood when needed, our focus is now less about crime watch and more about neighborhood infrastructure and beautification improvement, relationship building between neighbors, and closer ties with City of Moline officials.''

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The Bluffs and Overlook Historic Neighborhood Association — with assistance from Augustana College and Trinity Lutheran Church — designed and painted a mural on the north side of Super Stop V, a convenience store located on the corner of 15th Street and 13th Avenue.

In addition, eight sign toppers bearing the Bluffs logo have been placed throughout the neighborhood. The toppers were designed by resident Deb Veber and made by QC Press. A 4-foot-by-8-foot sign will be placed on the north side of the El Mariachi Restaurant, a door down from the Super Stop V. It will read: "Bienvenidos to the Bluffs.''

"Like all of these amazing projects, this one goes to show you that people — and some that don't even have a tie to a Moline neighborhood — want to see a great project come to life,'' O'Brien said.

It even caught and touched the heart of a Quad-Cities newcomer, Peter Bredlau, pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1330 13th St.

"I arrived at Trinity in October and have been welcomed by the congregation and the community,'' Bredlau said. "I’m especially interested in learning more about the Bluffs and the surrounding neighborhoods from the residents themselves.

"I believe that Trinity is in the neighborhood for a reason, and the congregation would like to know how it can be most helpful in beautification, safety, and creating a good place to live and work.

"Neighbor and congregation interaction is key. People don’t have to be church members or participants to be partners in creating a great neighborhood.''

Trinity Lutheran's relationship helped the mural find the footing it needed to become a reality. Trinity member Jane Bahls, wife of Augustana College President Steven Bahls, suggested engaging graphic arts and design students taught by Vickie Phipps at Augustana in the project

After attending several classes, Bluffs leaders Sue Normoyle, Sandy White and Veber introduced several ideas about a mural to the Augustana students.

That group, led by Tracy Ngo, a recent Augustana graduate, took the project and ran. They interviewed the neighbors to get an understanding of the Bluffs, and they toured the neighborhood and even enjoyed lunch at El Mariachi.

Ngo's father, visiting from Vietnam, even stopped to assist.

"Tracy drew the design on the Super Stop wall for us,'' White said. "Deb and I started outlining the different colors of the design on the wall and had amazing feedback from people leaving the convenience store, people walking by, and neighborhood kids who came to watch. Most of them didn't know what the Bluffs neighborhood was, so we have put ourselves on the map.''

O'Brien had nothing but praise for the project.

"Sue Normoyle, Sandy White, Deb Veber and Jane Bahls just went above and beyond,'' O'Brien said. "Then Tracy steps in and does an amazing job. The contribution by so many from the Bluffs and from Augustana College will wow you. You cannot forget Vickie Phipps and her grace and understanding. Amazing work by so many people.''

Bahls says there is more to the project.

"It’s been exciting to be part of this collaboration between the Bluffs neighborhood, the City of Moline, Trinity Lutheran Church and Augustana College,'' she said. " I’m looking forward to September, when we work together to create a large mural wrapping around an outbuilding in the church parking lot. It will be a beautiful link between the church and the community, both in its creation and its presence.''

O'Brien said there is more work to be done, but recent steps to enhance some unique and amazing Moline neighborhoods must be regarded as a success.

"A success on so many fronts, '' she said. "This is a great step to bettering all neighborhoods. So many have and continue step forward. That's part of the mission of the Moline CDC.''



John is a columnist and reporter for Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com.

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