She introduced herself unpretentiously, as “Mary,” but what
she said didn’t lack impact.
“What’s really important to our community (is) we need to
keep our jobs,” she said.
The words were simple, but the gravitas came from the young
woman’s identity: Longtime resident of the neighborhood in
question, the community surrounding Nystrom Elementary School.
Like others who gathered in the Nystrom school cafeteria
Monday night, Mary Bragg served as an example of harnessing
the power of enthusiastic residents in a community development
project. Bragg’s focus was economic development.
Other residents gave presentations on education, health,
public safety and other aspects of community life.
The “Community Engagement Roll-Out Meeting” dealt with issues
concerning the community within a roughly 40-square block
area in the southern section of the city’s Iron Triangle.
Dubbed NURVE, which stands for Nystrom United Revitalization
Effort, the project is a collaborative effort between the
Richmond Children’s Foundation, the Bay Area Local Initiatives
Support Corporation (LISC), and other city and county partners.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and County Supervisor John Gioia
were among the political leaders who attended, along with
more than 60 residents and program officials.
“We can dictate from the top down, but unless we are reaching
the residents who are on the ground, we’re really not doing
our job,” said McKinley Ross, one of the team leaders working
on neighborhood economic development.
Monday night’s meeting was a culmination of a long-developing
local “listening campaign” in the neighborhood, which comprises
about 14,000 mostly low-income residents. Surveys and meetings
were used over the past year to gather information about
what resources residents need said Margaret Gee, Neighborhood
Development Director for LISC.
The results were presented to the crowd by a series of speakers,
often with the aid of overhead projectors and bullet-point
The education team presented six month and one-year objectives,
which included creating a “Parent Corps” team of volunteers
to provide basic literacy teaching and to launch a neighborhood
The health team in Nystrom, which sits just blocks away
from the emission-producing Chevron Corp. refinery, hopes
to found a community health fair and to lobby for more fresh
produce and open spaces in the community.
These and other plans unveiled Monday should begin their
implementation phases within 30 days, Gee said.
McLaughlin gave a brief introductory speech in which she
praised the neighborhood collaborative.
“Your work is really going to be a model for other cities,”
McLaughlin said, referring to the approach of community leaders
taking a lead role in neighborhood issues, then providing
information, recommendations and requests for services from
city and county government.
The effort is primarily funded by the Richmond Children’s
Foundation and Bay Area LISC, which pays for two AmeriCorps
staffers and a community organizer.
For more information on the Nystrom community effort, visit
resources at the Richmond
Children’s Foundation and the Bay
Area Local Initiatives Support Coalition.