$500,000 grant brings early Christmas cheer to neighborhood

HARTSVILLE, SC(WMBF) - Christmas came early for one Pee Dee community with a $500,000 grant. The money will be used to make improvements on a neighborhood and bring more community to the area.

The City of Hartsville will receive a $500,000 Village Renaissance grant from the Community Development Block Grant program.

The city plans to use the money to help revitalize the Oakdale community.

Before the grant was announced city leaders stepped up to help improve the area.

They started a Neighborhood Association, a crime watch group and quarterly clean-up events.

Now, they say, they are ready to move forward to help revitalize the area.

"It is a big victory and it is one that I know our neighborhood is going to be so happy about. I think this would be one of the best things that has ever happened to our area. We have seen little activity and people getting involved in our community. Trying for this grant has helped bring our neighborhood together and will continue to make our area better," said President of the Oakdale Neighborhood Association, Rebecca Rivers.

Some people living in the area say this grant couldn't come at a better time.

"This is one of the best Christmas presents you can get in this area," said James McDonald, who lives in the Oakdale neighborhood.

"We can celebrate Christmas and celebrate Jesus Christ and celebrate our neighborhood," said Vice President of the Oakdale Neighborhood Association, Mary Powell.

The Oakdale community in Hartsville has a lot to celebrate this holiday season.

A $500,000 grant was awarded to the city to help make improvements to the community.

City officials say the money will be used to improve the Oakdale area with security cameras, that will be linked to the police department, new street lights and new pavements for the streets and sidewalks.

"I'm very excited about getting this grant because it's something we've wanted for a while and it's very well needed," said McDonald.

Hartsville Planning Commissioner, Curtis Lee, says getting this grant took a lot of effort, not only from city officials, but from community involvement.

"We had some of the true leaders in the neighborhood step up and form the Neighborhood Association, so it's really been a process and it's taken almost a year," said Lee.

The Oakdale area used to be full of activity.

"This was the place where the Hartsville Cotton Mill was which is where the Governor's School is sitting today and this neighborhood basically used to be fore the supervisors and folks that worked in the mill so there really is a neat rich history," said Lee.

"When I found out that this was a community that had so much background to it, it really astounded me because I didn't know where I was living and that's fantastic, and now that we can do things that we have the money to do like put sidewalks down and pull down bushes that aren't good for the community and make it safe for the community, I'm ecstatic... I really am," said Powell.

But city officials say over the years community involvement dropped.

Half of the community is now made up of short-term tenants, but an effort is being made to change that.

"In all the neighborhoods I've lived in, I've never known all my neighbors. Now I know all the neighbors on each street, can you imagine that... How many people get the chance to do that," said Powell.

Improvements to the community are expected to begin next year.

People in the neighborhood hope the new revitalization efforts will bring more permanent residents to the area and create a community atmosphere.

"That's what this is all about... is us really acting as a neighborhood together," said Lee.

If everything's goes well in the next two years, the community has the opportunity to get another grant for up to $500,000.

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