After a brief yet impressive conjoining of all walks of the Gulfport community, a group effort to unite all walks of Gulfportians in cleaning the streets and helping their neighbors faltered but did not die. The Gulfport Neighbors went, for all intents and purposes, dormant shortly after the 2011 local elections.
Although quiet for a few years now, the Gulfport Neighbors has returned, this time with new leadership at the helm – Margarete Tober, Rose-Marie Seawall and Bev Newcomb – and new energy.
"We had good energy and a lot of ideas," Ms. Seawall says of the initial effort "but it was too much, too fast."
Indeed, the initial Gulfport Neighbors effort included ideas about the arts and political action in addition to helping neighbors in need and removing street-side litter. This time, Ms. Seawall says, the group has a narrower focus.
According to the organization's Facebook page, its mission now is “to inspire, motivate and unite our neighbors in order to improve the quality of life in Gulfport.”
Cleanups will continue, Ms. Tober says, as a "standing monthly" event, but for more acute problems, such as a yard that has overwhelmed an elderly person, Gulfport Neighbors hopes to come to the rescue.
"We want to build a network of volunteers," Ms. Tober says, for people "who need the help."
Also in the works? A quarterly "Day of Caring and Sharing" where neighbors are encouraged to help their neighbors with various residential projects. In tandem with this, the Gulfport Neighbors are working with the city to sponsor a "swap meet" type event where residents can get rid of household items, furniture, appliances, and the like by trade, giveaway, sale or just trashing it for free rather than calling for a city pickup. The event is for Gulfport residents at the Gulfport Neighborhood Center on 49th Street, and organizers hope to include "Coffee with the Cops" and a police bike rodeo.
"A lot of this is still in process," Ms. Tober says. "We need volunteers."
Ms. Seawall praises Ms. Tober's energy.
"Margarete is the one who has pushed to reactivate it," she says. The two women already volunteer together managing local Facebook page "Gulfport Watchdogs", a politically-oriented page that sprang from the now-defunct Gulfport Watchdog blog, once run by current Executive Director of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce Bob Newcomb. (After the proper paperwork clears the state, Mr. Newcomb's wife, Bev, will sit on the Gulfport Neighbors board alongside Ms. Seawall and Ms. Tober).
Despite their leadership of a politically-charged social media site, the twosome promise that Gulfport Neighbors will remain apolitical.
"The most political we're going to get is snipe signs," Ms. Tober promises. "We're trying very hard to keep it separate."
"We can wear different hats," Ms. Seawall agrees. "We love our community and we are trying to do something positive."
For its first event in several years, the Neighbors will hold a beach cleanup this Saturday morning on Gulfport Beach, followed by pay-your-way lunch afterwards. Please see the related press release in this week's Gabber for details on the event.
If you would like to become volunteer you can contact the group on their Facebook page or by email at email@example.com.