Pioneering Change Comes to Gifford
Community organizer Merchon Green has come home to the Town of Gifford with Pioneering Change, Inc. It is a new not-for-profit community organization dedicated to the belief that every citizen can contribute positively to their community and make change. Pioneering Change is targeting a different demographic with a more nontraditional approach from current civil rights organizations in the community. In the spirit of the young community organizer Barack Obama in Chicago, also a law school graduate, Merchon is reaching out to the uninvolved and those who feel disenfranchised.
“I was raised here and want to make it better. This is our community. They need to see that someone cares.”
Local church and community members are working with Green to foster innovative exchanges, and cultural, education, civic & policy programs that advance the four Pioneering Change goals.
Pioneering Change Goals
- Unify the community
- Work towards a self-sufficient community generating its own resources
- Resolve issues plaguing the community
- Create future leaders
A first community activity of the “Pioneers” is knocking on doors in a door-to-door introduction and campaign that will lead to creating a Neighborhood Watch for Gifford.
Neighborhood Watch counts on citizens to organize themselves and work with law enforcement to keep a trained eye and ear on their communities, while demonstrating their presence at all times of day and night. It was begun in 1972 by the National Sherriff’s Association that continues to run it today. Neighborhood Watch works because it reduces opportunities for crime to occur; it doesn’t rely on altering or changing the criminal’s behavior or motivation.
The impetus for founding the organization was recent violence in the community. But, the mission of the organization is larger than curbing violence. Violence is a symptom of larger, systemic problems such as poverty, marginalization, underrepresentation, and racism.
Pioneering Change held their first town hall meeting on Monday, May 8, 2017, at the Northside Agape Church of God focused on improving relations with law enforcement.
Five recommendations came out of the discussion to improve relations between Gifford citizens and the sheriff’s office.
- Purchase and provide body cameras for law enforcement officers patrolling Gifford, a high-crime area.
- Establish a Citizen’s review Board in conjunction with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.
- Develop a policy for outside investigations of law enforcement-involved shootings.
- Offer events where citizens and deputies can get to know each other better, like Family Day where officers bring their families into the community to join residents in bar-b-ques, cultural events, and games.
- Develop alternatives to arresting public school students for on-campus infractions.
Green urges people to attend public meetings, including the sheriff’s COPE (Community Oriented Policing Enforcement) group, which is a public outreach of the sheriff’s office. She also suggested people go to county commission and school board meetings.
The Democrats of Indian River County are working to preserve the democratic principles of our country for all its citizens. We are working for working families. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, Democrats have fought to end discrimination in all forms. For too many Floridians, though, this ideal is still far from a reality.