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Neighborhood Watch

Mid-South Community Association launched to protect Memphis neighborhoods.

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Wal-Mart has left its footprints all across the country, and some would argue that the big, blue sign and friendly greeters have worn out their welcome.

Last October, attorney Brian Stephens represented "Citizens for Sustainable Growth" and helped stop Wal-Mart from opening a third location in Cordova.

Now Stephens has teamed with political activist Liz Rincon to form the Mid-South Community Association, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance "neighborhood and community issues through public policy, education, networking, and professionalism."

"We must address how we can work together with county and city resources to address problems throughout the community," Rincon says. "We want things to be fixed immediately, but we must learn to be patient so we can come together and work on dire issues, such as crime and poverty."

Stephens says the group will focus on grassroots issues and community leadership.

"We've got to get out of the '60s mentality with protests and things like that. ... We want to have our lawmakers want to work with us. They're not the enemy. They want to do the right thing, but they have to hear our message so they can understand our message."

Other cities, such as Dallas and Nashville, have organizations similar to the Mid-South Community Association. But Stephens and Rincon have taken an approach specifically designed for Memphis, because the area has two governments, a high percentage of poverty, a large population of school-age children, and a significantly larger minority population than those cities.

"Typically, the other organizations that have done this in other cities have a very different nonprofit dynamic," Stephens says. "In Memphis, we have a large group of working community development corporations."

Community development corporations, or CDCs, generally try to improve neighborhoods by renovating or constructing low- or middle-income housing. Stephens also mentions Memphis organizations such as Leadership Memphis and the Leadership Academy.

"We hope to leverage, and not duplicate, the great work they are already performing," Stephens says.

The group will hold its first meeting April 14th at 6 p.m. at the Memphis Library Highland Street Branch. The main objectives will be to recruit new members and plan upcoming events.

"We want to get everyone on the same page so we can create an organization with a staff to pool all our resources," Stephens says. "Lawyers have the American Bar Association to help them, and real estate agents have their association. But neighborhoods don't have a group, and they need a group to fight for their interests."

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