Jackie Holmes, El Dorado Park Volunteer
“I much rather live in a place where there are differences than a homogenized community where everything is blah.”
Meet Jackie Holmes. She volunteers to improve El Dorado Park by cooperating with several organizations. El Dorado Park is one of the neighborhoods targeted in efforts to revitalize the Fresno State area.
Jackie was born and raised on a 40 acre walnut ranch in Porterville. She moved to Fresno when she transferred from Porterville Junior College to Fresno State in 1996. There she graduated with a degree in Criminology.
Jackie got her first taste as a volunteer when she started Habitat for Humanity in Fresno. She eventually worked full-time as a volunteer for the organization. Jackie now spends most of her free time walking around El Dorado Park to find new ways to cooperate with residents and property owners in improving the apartments.
Jackie says she volunteers because it gives her the satisfaction knowing she has contributed to something. “Volunteering is what I am and what I do,” she says. She is the oldest of five kids and had a lot of responsibilities helping out on the ranch as a child. “I grew up thinking that everyone has something valuable they can contribute.” She learned to detect what a person can contribute and connecting them to the right resourses.
WHY EL DORADO PARK?
Jackie lives near El Dorado Park. She started to volunteer in the area when she saw the potential it had to be integrated. “I’m a connector,” Jackie says, “when I see resources, I make the connection.”
Jackie has regularly been attending Wesley United Methodist Church in El Dorado Park for about two months. When she started going to the Pink Cow, a thrift store run by the church, she realized how many church members knew her husband and decided to attend Sunday service . The more she attended the church, the more involved she became with efforts to revitalize the area.
Jackie says she loves the action at Wesley and loves being involved. “I haven’t felt this way since I started Habitat for Humanity,” she says.
INTERACTING WITH RESIDENTS
Jackie has spent a lot of time interacting with the residents of El Dorado Park. She tries to talk to people on a more personal, positive level instead of talking about their living conditions. She says she does not try to be forward initially. The first couple of times she sees a particular individual, she looks them straight in the eye and nods. She’ll sometimes greet them or ask how they are. She tries to remember names, where people were and what they were doing. She uses this information to string things together. Most people nod back and reciprocate the greeting. “Some people I have no influence over,” she says, “but all I can do is be a decent being to them.”
IDEAS FOR EL DORADO PARK
Jackie has several ideas on how the community can improve El Dorado Park without waiting for the government to take charge:
Jackie says the biggest priority in improving El Dorado Park should be communication. There are several organizations involved in improving El Dorado Park, including: Fresno State, Boys and Girls Club, CDC, and the property owners group. “There’s always a revolving door of people who want to be involved,” Jackie says. Although there is much enthusiasm to revitalize the area, it is difficult to go forward when communication between the organizations is not completely there. She thinks it would be better if there was a place groups could report to one another like a Web site.
Build to Suit
Jackie strongly opposes gentrification. She says that residents need someplace to live and if you kick them out, they will only go somewhere else in Fresno. Instead, she thinks, apartments should be redesigned to suit the tenants’ culture. For example, some cultures prefer a big open space instead of multiple bedrooms. This will make the apartments more livable for the existing tenants without kicking them out and seeking new renters.
Bring Good Investors in
If the government continues to fine property owners for code violations, Jackie thinks all of the bad investors will be scared away. The area will then improve if good investors take over the properties. Jackie says investors do have an incentive to buy a property in El Dorado Park. They would have a lot of resources to work with. There are several organizations, such as The Boys and Girls Club, Fresno and the church that are very willing to work with property owners. Jackie would like to see more investors involved with El Dorado Park. There are about 35 different properties in the neighborhood, but only 4 to 5 owners have expressed interest in helping revitalize the area.
Reward Good Behavior
Jackie says there are easy, inexpensive ways people can convince residents to take part in improving the area, such as an reward program. This program point out the nice little things residents do. For example, maintaining a good lawn can be awarded with a giftcard to Starbucks. Before and after photos can be posted on a Web site or at the church. “People like it when they do something good and someone notices,” Jackie says.
ADVICE FOR VOLUNTEERS
Jackie says the most important thing volunteers can do is to make sure their interests and capabilities line up with their work. “The giving and taking has to create a whole,” she says.
It is easy to feel obligated to volunteer on a regular basis. To avoid this, Jackie says you should be upfront about what your schedule is. A good volunteer coordinator will be able to work around your schedule.
If you are looking for volunteer work, Jackie says you can contact Hands On of Central California, churches and non profit organizations for volunteer opportunities. “Talk to others about what makes you feel good to do,” Jackie says, “and the connections will happen.”
You might not influence anyone, Jackie says, but at least you did what should have been done. Jackie thinks that if everyone became more involved, there would be a great improvement in most neighborhoods.
OPINIONS ON FRESNO
Jackie says she never thought of Fresno in terms of whether it was a good or bad place to live. “I think in terms of my life is here and I live well,” she says. She stays in Fresno because her family is here.
Jackie likes that Fresno is a pluralistic community. “I much rather live in a place where there are differences than a homogenized community where everything is blah,” she says. Jackie thinks Fresno’s diversity is what makes our area unique and rich.
Jackie says Fresno does have its problems, but doubts there is any town that doesn’t. She looks on the positive side and says this is a hopeful time for Fresno. There are a lot of opportunities for Fresno to change for the better. “The old ways that didn’t work are so broken that there is room for new ways to emerge,” she says.
Have a lovely day in Fresno!