LEWISTON — When Jessica Golder walks down the streets of her neighborhood with her three young children in tow and overhears someone spouting obscenities, she doesn’t keep going.
“I’ll stop and say, ‘Please don’t do that.’ “
The Blake Street homeowner isn’t afraid to tell people what she thinks. More important, she isn’t afraid to take action when she sees the need.
Golder, who was recognized recently by the Lewiston Police Department for her volunteer leadership in the community, says you can’t complain about something if you’re not willing to work to change it.
She and her husband, Jacob, moved to the inner city four years ago from rural Windham, where they grew up.
It was a jarring change.
“It was a whole new experience for both of us,” she said.
Since then, she’s teamed up with local police to help turn her neighborhood around from mean streets to a place where neighbors watch out for each other and speak up.
“The neighbors that are around me, if you need anything, they will drop everything to help you,” she said.
At first, she would see police officers on her street every day, “like clockwork,” she said. They were responding to police calls for criminal activity.
“My husband was very scared,” she said. They both worried about crime and the effect it might have on their children.
They expected to stay five years at most, but now can’t imagine ever leaving, she said.
“It is the best.” Everything she needs is within walking distance.
Jacob Golder lost his job three times in less than a year. Then the variety store next door, Dee’s Market, hired him.
“People look at Lewiston as a bad place to live,” she said. She knows better now.
As time when on, “that’s when I got the guts to stand up for my neighborhood,” she said.
Now the only time she sees police officers is when she goes to the nearby police substation on Bates Street where they all know her — and her three children — by name.
“It’s a drastic change, and it’s definitely for the good,” she said.
“It used to be just me,” she said, who would speak out when she saw something she didn’t like in her community. “I won’t put up with it.”
Last summer, there was a ruckus on the street at 1 a.m. Golder called police, then went out to stand on her front porch. She saw four other residents doing the same.
“And I was like, thank you,” she said. “People are starting to realize that the way their community has turned … is what we want to keep.”
A year after she and Jacob bought their condominium on Blake Street, Golder was asked by police to serve as president of the Downtown Community Action Group, a title she still holds.
She attended the Citizen Police Academy and is about to go back for a refresher course.
In the meantime, Golder has organized community events, corralling volunteers to help with, among other activities, car washes, bottle drives, yard sales, block parties and street cleanups.
She’s in the process of lining up a Somali interpreter to teach the language to local residents, at no charge. Other classes she’s arranged include financial fitness and personal safety.
“We’ve heard a lot of people have wanted that, but it’s really hard to find,” she said. She sat in her kitchen on a Friday morning fielding questions from her kids, two of whom had a day off from school.
“It would make things a lot easier in terms of communicating, in either direction,” she said. “Everybody I’ve come in contact with (in the Somali community) has been extremely nice.”
Her next project is to raise enough money to transform Pierce Street Park from a gloomy place into a welcoming place for kids to gather and play. Improvements to her community also benefit Golder and her family.
“This building is my house,” she said. “This neighborhood is my home.”