He was only three years old at the
time. But, in September 2002, Bobby Wilder, and what he did, epitomized the
frustration and despair that's haunted the long suffering South Memphis
neighborhood of Riverview and Kansas. Nearly 11 years after Wilder accidentally
set a fire by trying to smoke a cigarette in his bedroom, the burned out remnants
of the former Kansas Street Apartments are finally about to rise from the
ashes to be replaced by the new future home of the Riverview Alive: Family
Life and Wellness Center.
Not only are they building buildings
but they are building people.
Memphis City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said, "We may not live in an affluent neighborhood. But, we live in a substantial neighborhood, such as this neighborhood right here.
Ford, along with his Council colleagues, Janis Fullilove, Myron Lowery and Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter joined with forty (40) others at the Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Monday. The occasion was supposed to be held outside at the abandoned apartment complex where demolition activity had been slated to begin, but was delayed due to inclement weather. Yet, the spirits of those inside were not dampened.
In a South Memphis community that's one of the poorest in the city and with more than sixty percent of the residents being senior citizens, it's been an uphill fight to give new hope to an area of town which once bustled with life.
"I know there are a lot of elderly people that reside here. But there are a number of people who are working people. Their paychecks may not be large. But, they're staying within their community," said Janis Fullilove Memphis City Councilwoman
But, it's work of a faith-based nature
that's been going on, led by the work of the Oak Grove Church in collaboration
with other helping organizations. The Wellness Center will figure to serve as a
base for continuing social outreach in the community. Oak Grove Pastor Rev. James
Kendrick says, "We've been working on that same corner for a long time. We have
one young man in rehab who is a product of what we're trying to do. We've been
able to help a few young women. Get their GED's and now they're working.
And, perhaps from the ashes a child left behind, new hope for a community will be born again.