Glencoe residents form organization Glencoe Neighbors to keep city safe

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From left to right, Andrea Hare, Glencoe council members Jeff Little and Chris Sims, Christie Arther, Denise Cooey, Glencoe Mayor Chris Hare, Glencoe Police Chief Kenon McKenzie, Glencoe Fire Chief Richard Johnson, Glencoe council members Colt Turner, Cody Rampey and Danny Wagnon support Glencoe Neighbors.

A coalition of Glencoe residents is striving to better their neighborhoods through a new organization.

Glencoe Neighbors hosted its first official meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 24 at the Public Safety Building on Chastain Boulevard in Glencoe, encouraging neighbors to unite their efforts to prepare for the future and protect the community they call home.

Glencoe Neighbors developed from a common concern among citizens concerning public safety. When a series of car burglaries affected all areas of the City of Patriotism, its neighborhoods took notice – and decided to act. Retired Gadsden-Etowah County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Denise Cooey understands the importance of vigilance in maintaining a community’s security and ensuring its residents remain prepared for any circumstances that might arise. While her concept for Glencoe Neighbors originated as a neighborhood watch, following the collective response of her fellow citizens, the organization soon transformed into something greater.

Crime prevention, public health awareness and disaster and emergency preparedness coincide with an encouragement of good stewardship to culminate the pursuit of Glencoe Neighbors, which focuses on creating a safer and stronger city. Cooey, the current chairperson of the organization, works closely alongside fellow residents like Sonya Long, who shares her vision of generating a strong camaraderie among community members.

“It’s just getting back to the basics of being a good neighbor,” said Cooey. “The mission [of Glencoe Neighbors] is to harness the power of every individual through education, training and volunteer service to make Glencoe safer, stronger and better prepared to respond to threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues and disasters of all kinds. [Through Glencoe Neighbors] we could come together to prevent, mitigate, respond and assist in recovery efforts when we have a disaster, whether it’s weather-related or man-made.”

Numerous elected officials and county leaders expressed their support of Glencoe Neighbors, including Sheriff Jonathon Horton, District 1 Etowah County Commissioner Joey Statum, Glencoe Mayor Chris Hare and Glencoe city council members, Glencoe Police Chief Kenon McKenzie, Glencoe Fire Chief Richard Johnson and Gadsden-Etowah County Emergency Management Agency Director Deborah Gaither.

“We’ve got a lot of good folks in Etowah County,” said Statum. “[Glencoe Neighbors] shows the character of the city, and I think you’ll have a lot of citizens in Glencoe participate. Glencoe has always been a close-knit community, as well as others [in the county]. I think it’s very notable for anybody who retires [like Denise Cooey] and comes out and invests back into things she already knows (and has been trained on) to bring the community together.”

“My first impression [of Glencoe Neighbors] was at this time in our lives, coming through COVID-19, there are people really wanting to be involved and help out,” said Hare. “Something like Glencoe Neighbors opens up and it gives people a chance to be involved with the community, city officials and it sets the tone for helping other organizations we have in our city. You have organizations that do their part, but now you’re asking a variety of people throughout the whole community to be a spokesperson for their district. It will benefit the city in many ways, because of what they’ll bring to the table as far as fresh hands to help, boots on the ground and even fresh ideas.”

Cooey noted that the first 72 hours are crucial following a disaster, as a time period when individuals might be on their own. While first responders work diligently to aid as many people as possible, individual families and neighbors might have to depend on themselves until additional assistance arrives. That reality sparked an essential aspect of Glencoe Neighbors that serves as the catalyst to achieve the organization’s ultimate goal: education.

Through its partnerships with county and city law enforcement and Glencoe’s fire department, Glencoe Neighbors will offer extensive free training courses to educate participants in proper methods of response. The organization will feature Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) via certified instructor Johnson, while McKenzie will walk residents through how to accurately identify and report crime. In addition, an officer will serve as a liaison for different neighborhoods to develop communication between residents and law enforcement. Other potential training sessions might include disaster first aid, basic life-saving practices and identifying community resources.

“We feel that in our community we’re going to be able to teach them search and rescue,” said Johnson. “CERT doesn’t make them a professional, but it makes them able to do some basic things that can help us in times of tragedy. It would benefit us during an event like a tornado or inclement weather, people could come out and help us cut trees or un-block roads. We’re going to teach them [things like] how to use a fire extinguisher and how to safely remove debris without injuring themselves or anybody else.”

“We want the city to be as safe as it could possibly be,” said McKenzie. “With Glencoe Neighbors helping us with that, it just puts more eyes and ears in the community as a whole. Our biggest thing is crime prevention, so just [developing] a form of communication where if they think they see suspicious activity, they know how to go through the proper steps of getting that information to the police department where we can act on it.”

“Even though we’re fortunate and we have good municipalities inside the county, we love when we can work together hand-in-hand with ventures like this and help educate the community from their city’s standpoint,” said Horton, who served as Glencoe Police Chief prior to his election as sheriff. “The fact that Glencoe is the City of Patriotism…I can’t think of another patriotic thing than to engage in a group such as Glencoe Neighbors and be an example. Learning to be better prepared in the case of an emergency is one thing, but throughout the process you get to know each other and become better neighbors. That, to me, was the key takeaway from all of it – knowing your neighbors.”

Statum shared that repetition and in-depth training provokes a natural response in individuals when a situation arises. Horton added another element to Glencoe Neighbors in the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office’s free app, which allows users to submit tips, geographical locations and photos, either anonymously or by name if selected.

Developing strong relationships among neighbors culminates the organization’s essence, which nurtures a trustworthy bond between residents who emerge as reliable individuals willing to lend helping hands.

Identifying leaders throughout the community who will serve as representatives of their immediate neighborhood proved the purpose of Thursday’s meeting. While all involved will work under the umbrella of Glencoe Neighbors, to ensure all areas are thoroughly covered, specific sections of Glencoe will feature spokespersons who can attend meetings and relay messages back to their neighbors who either may not have the time or means to attend.

“Glencoe Neighbors is basically the whole group of neighbors in one place,” said Cooey. “It is also individual groups set up throughout Glencoe that function however is best for them.”

Cooey shared that Glencoe Neighbors could likewise serve as a database for volunteerism, providing residents with opportunities to help throughout the community. Events like The Rozzy Run, Bash in the Bend, Smoke in the Park and Celebration in the Park allow people the chance to contribute to their city and become involved in fundraisers that support their home.

Cooey also plans to include Glencoe’s Beautification Board in Glencoe Neighbors, if possible, and provide assistance for local businesses when needed. She hopes churches throughout the community will become involved, noting that when a disaster occurs, having faith-based organizations ready to assist and counsel those affected is vital in the recovery process. College Heights Baptist Church’s Joshua Noojin expressed interest in joining the endeavor.

While reading her Bible one day, Cooey said that she felt God provided a confirmation for her in this venture through Nehemiah, who rebuilt the wall in Jerusalem alongside individuals who were responsible for specific sections to protect and preserve. After the wall was completed, the people created a communication system with trumpets to alarm one another and call on each other when needed. Cooey considers this one of the first neighborhood watches.

“I’ve learned that people still care about people,” said Cooey. “Sometimes, we think we live in our own little worlds and that people don’t really care like they used to – but they do. They want to help each other. That’s a good thing. Sometimes, we turn on the news and all we see is bad news…it’s just good to know that there are still people that care and that our community is small enough that we have the ability to draw closer together. That’s going to help our officials address problems they couldn’t do alone, but could do with the help of their citizens [as a resource]. It’s very uplifting.”

Although Glencoe Neighbors remains in its earliest stages of inception, all involved envision the organization as a beacon for the community. In its representation of compassionate and driven individuals seeking to better their city, Glencoe Neighbors nurtures a support and encouragement throughout a united neighborhood, inspiring one another and serving as a potential catalyst for other municipalities to follow suit.

“We hope to see it emulated and have more organizations and groups like [Glencoe Neighbors],” said Horton. “It would be wonderful if we could have them subdivided across the entire county. It’s about reigniting that neighborhood watch portion and brining the abilitity to have some of those courses for the community who want to partake. [As the sheriff’s office] we are doing our part to offer the resources as a county that are available to them. We’re honored to partner with them and help make their city safer.”

“I’d like to encourage everybody to get involved,” said Statum. “Even if you don’t have a lot of time, take the time and do what you can, even if it’s just one simple thing. I’d also like to encourage other cities in the area to get involved and do the same thing – [all it takes is] someone taking the initiative to step up and become involved in their community. Any time you can get a community focused on helping one another and keeping a watch out [for one another], it’s always beneficial. It’s better to be prepared now than be unprepared later. I think this will end up being a huge benefit. I just think it’s a great thing – as soon as Denise told me about it, I said, ‘I’m in! I’ll do whatever I have to do to help.’”

“I think Glencoe will be recognized if this continues to grow,” said Cooey. “It could be a model for other cities that if you pull together and watch out for each other, you can reduce crime and save property and lives in an emergency through training and knowledge. I see it as something that will bring people together. It will teach goodwill and be a good example for our children to be involve in their neighborhoods and community. Each individual plays a part in our community, whether it be very small or very big. I know it’s cliché to say it takes a village, but it actually does in every endeavor you do as a city or group. We’ve got a good city as a it is, but it takes everyone to contribute and chip in to make the city a better, safer place to live.”

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