Brenda Tillery was doing what she could for her Frederick neighborhood before community policing came to town and downtown revitalization programs existed.
"I've always had a vision about this community," she said in a telephone interview.
She grew up on South Street and has lived all 71 of her years within a few blocks.
"I never went anyplace," she said. "I wanted to stay here to help residents. ... We try to offer the residents positive programs."
Help with homework, a Valentine's party and a book club are offered to children, she said.
She also wants to change the image of public housing, she said. She has served 20 years and is the outgoing president of the Lincoln Community Resident Council. The self-described Fredericktonian also represents her community on the South Street Coalition.
"I'll be supporting the community as long as I can," she said.
Lou Hamilton moved to South Street in 1998 and is the coalition's secretary. Tillery helps his nonprofit group fulfill its mission to better the community, he said.
"She's always been very helpful," Hamilton said in a telephone interview. "She's a very interesting lady."
She worked at Frederick Memorial Hospital and Fort Detrick, and retired from Citizens Care Rehabilitation Center. Tillery's parents' generation raised children with a sense of responsibility and discipline, she said.
"Everybody worked together -- had respect," she said. "All that has changed."
Volunteering to serve is a natural extension for her and a way to preserve what was best about the neighborhood, she said. Tillery's council meets monthly to address issues that come up and to plan for some of the activities that the council and housing authority schedule.
"My vision was to see ... this stay a safe community," she said. "I just took it up myself. ... I've always liked helping people."
She remembers three grocery stores on South Street, civil rights leader Lord Nickens living on All Saints Street, and a milk plant on Phebus Avenue. Churches have become auto repair shops, the jail turned into Beacon House and the Way Station went up where apartments once stood.
Drugs and poverty have harmed the neighborhood, but do not define the Lincoln community, she said.
"This has never been a hood," she said. "This has always been a community."
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