Building Better Communities initiative in Delaware expands to new neighborhoods in New Castle County

The initiative aims to improve the quality of life and reduce violence with expansion to Brookside and Pleasantville communities.

NCCo Executive Matt Meyer visits Caffé Gelato in downtown Newark

File photo: New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer launched the Building Better Communities initiative to provide community engagement and other resources to under-served communities in New Castle County. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Since 2022, New Castle County’s Building Better Communities initiative has helped identify and implement new approaches to reducing violence and boosting community development in areas of need. The program is now expanding to Brookside, near Newark, and Pleasantville, along the Route 9 corridor.

“[It’s] a way to address, I would say, inequities that we’ve known about or that have festered for decades,” said New Castle County manager of special project CJ Bell. “There’s no one policy that fits every single community or every single neighborhood.”

Collaborating with funding organizations in that community is their way of directly serving those communities. The effort is also funded with the help of federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act.

So far the program has distributed more than $2.7 million, with another $2.5 million yet to be given out. The county is now accepting grant applications from groups in Brookside and Pleasantville.

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The Knollwood community in Claymont, which has been plagued by drugs and crime, was the first neighborhood targeted to reduce violence and support overlooked communities.

In Knollwood, “we awarded three organizations funding from there. So we have [the] Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware, and then First Tee Delaware,” Bell said. “The metrics that we looked at for Knollwood were access to youth services… we saw that that was a spot where that could be improved.”

Additional youth services seem to be a common need throughout New Castle County, and something residents of Brookside would appreciate.

“A Boys and Girls Club would definitely be nice. I mean, kids always need something to do and not all parents can afford child care or day care and be able to send kids to those summer programs,” said Amanda Daros, a 25-year-old Brookside resident. “So something like that is awesome, especially in this area.”

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Daros, who looks after her 12-year-old nephew, says he has little to do. She said with more youth programs “he can meet kids his own age and they could all hang out and, you know, keep out of trouble, which is also really important for kids when they are getting to the teenage years. They need to stay out of trouble and just have friends,” she said.

Organizations and community members could expect projects to begin before the end of the year, according to Bell. The deadline for grant submissions is July 7 at 5 p.m.

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