By Jessie Fox and Kaila Gantt

West Oak Lane: A Proud and Determined Block

West Oak Lane: A Proud and Determined Block
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Johnnie Stitt, resident and block caption of 7000 block of Ogontz Avenue, showed the awards she had won while serving as block captain.

For the residents of Ogontz Avenue between Andrews Avenue and Middleton Street, an invested block captain and caring neighbors have helped their block maintain its peacefulness and achieve a strong sense of community.

Block captains serve as a liaison between the neighbors on their block and the larger community. They are well-known around their community and highly respected.

Johnnie Stitt, a longtime block captain, has maintained the positivity on the 7000 block of Ogontz Avenue by being committed to her fellow neighbors and community.

Algene Miles, a resident on the block, agreed that a strong leader has the ability to strengthen a neighborhood block. “[Stitt] does an excellent job,” Miles said. “She’s very interested and concerned, and she’s a person that gets the information and a real good leader. She really is.”

Friendly and supportive neighbors have also helped the block thrive. It’s an area where everyone knows one another and looks out for one another. “It’s a wonderful block,” said resident Bernice Miles, wife of Aglene Miles. “The neighbors are very caring. They’re concerned.”

The 7000 block of Ogontz Avenue has been a pleasant, family-based community for some time. Oliver Ancrum Sr. has been living on the block for a little over four decades, and his opinion of the neighborhood is just as positive now as it was 40 years ago.

“I moved here June of 1969, been living here ever since,” Ancrum said. “I got a daughter and her family living next door to me, and they’ve been here for about 26 years I believe. As far as the block goes, we got a good block. We got good neighbors, very good neighbors.”

Resident Oliver Ancrum Sr. cleaned his garden in preparation for the new season.

Ancrum has contributed to the block’s strong sense of community by keeping his own personal property clean. Every house on the block has been well manicured like Ancrum’s property. This has unified the block and given the neighbors something to work to maintain and improve together. “Everyone takes pride in and care of their lawn,” said Ancrum as he worked on his own garden.

Since Ogontz Avenue is a main street in this community, the block experiences high levels of traffic. Debra Brown is a crossing guard at the corner of Ogontz Avenue and Middleton Street and has been working for six years. “The area is busy, very busy,” Brown said. “It’s a lot of children and people, but everybody’s going where they go and doing what they do.”

The high levels of traffic are one of the few concerns Brown has for the area. “Only danger I feel is the cars,” Brown said. “That’s why I’m careful in the street and out with the kids. As far as with bodily harm, I really haven’t experienced any of that.”

In regards to the area in which Brown works, she simply said with a smile, “It’s good, it’s good, and the little kids make it all worthwhile.”

Ancrum agreed that the block has not suffered from many serious altercations or problems. “We have no problems whatsoever,” he said. “Every now and then, like any neighborhood, you got a little discrepancy but it’s very minor, no major discrepancies.”

Resident Bernice Miles would like to see more of a police presence on the 7000 block of Ogontz Avenue.

Although negative issues have not occurred on the block, the residents would like to have police presence in the area again. “One complaint we have [is that] they took our police [and] bicycle cops away,” Bernice Miles said.  “We want them back, especially now that it’s getting warm and they can patrol the driveways.”

Henry Davis Jr. has been a resident of the neighborhood for 12 years. He explained that the neighborhood has been fairly pleasant to live in, but also admitted that no one should be naïve about its potential dangers. “Well it’s not too bad, it’s not too bad,” he said, “but remember one thing, everybody is not your friend. A lot of people smile, but they’re not you friend.”

Bicycle cops were an asset to the block and its surround area due to easy accessibility. The high levels of traffic and narrow side and back streets didn’t affect their ability to patrol the area and further increase the neighborhood’s safety.

However, residents have taken matters into their own hands. Neighbors have decided to look out for one another in order to help prevent illegal or violent acts from occurring on the block. This has become another way for the residents to take pride in their neighborhood and maintain their block’s strong sense of community.

“On a whole it’s a very good block,” Bernice Miles said.

Soundslide: Resident Keeps Block Clean

Shaheed Bilil, 52, has been a part of this neighborhood since 1968. He sits on the corner every day washing cars and keeping an eye out on the surrounding area. He likes to see a strong and clean community and does his best to play his part.

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