Children First/ Communities In Schools of Buncombe County today hosted a celebration of the new sidewalks in the Emma community – an achievement involving multiple partners and community advocates and 8 years in the making. Local leaders who attended the event included Mayor Terry Bellamy, County Commissioner David Gantt, and City Council member Chris Pelly, as well as representatives from the Center for Participatory Change, Community Action Opportunities, City of Asheville, and Buncombe County Schools – all partners who were instrumental in advocating for the new sidewalks.

Allison Jordan, executive director of Children First/ Communities In Schools, told the gathering at Emma Elementary School: “Many of us take sidewalks for granted – because we have them, or because we get in our cars and drive where we need to go without ever having to think about walking to where we need to go. Emma residents have not taken sidewalks for granted, because for years they have had to walk on the shoulder of the road to get to the store, or to the bus stop, or to school. These sidewalks are just concrete – but what they represent is several years of advocacy and community partners coming together to make a much-needed change.”

Asheville City Councilman Chris Pelly spoke to the group of the fundamental role of local government in ensuring children get safely to school, and how the project required the active participation of the Emma community, Buncombe County, the NC Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Family Resource Center at Emma, and the City of Asheville. “Born in the Emma neighborhood, this sidewalk project is also a demonstration of what a united community can accomplish,” said Councilman Pelly.

Susanne Swanger, Associate Superintendent with Buncombe County Schools and former principal of Emma Elementary, stated: “This is an exciting day for the Emma community. Since I was principal here 10 years ago we have needed these sidewalks… now the community is truly connected between the school, the Family Resource Center, and the neighborhood.”

Following comments, Children First/ CIS’s part-time Sidewalk Coordinator, Nancy Nunez, led several children from the Emma community in demonstrating a “walking school bus” on the new sidewalks. A ceremonial ribbon was unfurled across the sidewalks, and participants enjoyed refreshments in the warmth of the Family Resource Center at Emma.

To view a photo album from the sidewalk celebration visit our Facebook page!

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