Leith Hall residents take pride, ownership in community
BY INDRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
LEITH HALL, St Thomas — There is no need to wonder where you are once you enter this St Thomas community, as the neatly arranged whitewashed stones, spell out a 'welcome' in the well-maintained recreational area, telling that you have arrived in Leith Hall.
But. while it is an area in which people are always lyming on the makeshift seats, strategically constructed under a huge tree, residents made it clear that it has been done for a purpose.
"This is not just a hang-out spot for idlers, but it is a big medium for bringing the community together and to encourage unity," explained Joan Wheiss-Douglas, a long-standing resident and justice of the peace. "In Leith Hall there is a group of people with all sorts of talents, so this is a way for persons to come together and showcase this talent," she told the Jamaica Observer North East during a recent visit to the parish.
"This is where we sit and talk about everything," added resident Marvia McDonald.
The community spirit was most evident in the maintenance of the park as there was nothing that brought out residents of Leith Hall more than the yearly project of beautifying their recreational area.
Every Labour Day, for the past 10 years, community members — from small children to the elderly — are up from crack of dawn to undertake the day-long project of giving the mini park a facelift.
This year's Labour Day was no different, as scores of residents painted the bus shed, whitewashed stones and trees, planted flowers, and removed weeds as part of the day's activities. After the work was done it was time for socialising as the residents feasted on meals prepared by self- acclaimed community chef, Jacqueline Gray.
The residents said they decided to create the wayside park at the entrance to their community as a way of taking pride and ownership in their surroundings.
According to Kenneth Flemmings, one of the active residents, the people opted to take charge of their community as they were not prepared to wait on others to do what they can do for themselves. "This is why the community come together every year to participate in this project," he said, adding that the yearly turnout of residents to participate in the maintenance of the park is usually very high.
For now, the residents say they fund the upkeep of the park from their own pockets and with contribution from small shopkeepers in the community
They added that Wheiss-Douglas is a major funder of the upkeep of the park and one of the driving forces behind the yearly clean-up project.
Wheiss-Douglas, who is a major contributor to community development is an affiliate of the Leith Hall Police Youth Club, a member of the Optimist Club, and a retired nurse.
"I have always wanted to get involved in my community and that is why I have never migrated, and this is one way of doing that," she told the Observer North East.
She explained that maintenance of the recreational area has been a joint community effort as it would not have been possible without the united efforts of residents. "People are always willing to help whenever we call on them," she said.
The community members, meanwhile, are hoping that they will be able to get support from the wider business community so they can expand the park and be able to beautify other areas as well.