Following a summer tragedy, Wilmington neighborhood shows community spirit with fall festival

A Wilmington neighborhood that was hit hard by the killing of a popular businessman two months ago has managed to come together instead of come apart, according to civic leaders.

Browntown, which has I-95 and railroad tracks among its boundaries, held its second annual Fall Festival Saturday, drawing longtime residents and newcomers of the ethnically-and-racially diverse neighborhood.  As children played on the playground and had their faces painted, adults were having their health screened or learning about job opportunities, affordable housing options and getting other advice and support from a number of service agencies and local businesses. 

“We are working hard to pull everybody together and recapture the spirit of the neighborhood,” Browntown Civic Association Co-Chairman Dale Spragg said. 

The BCA recently paid tribute to the memory of Norman Alhout, the owner of Johnny’s Supermarket on Maryland Avenue who was gunned down at the business August 9th.  Alhout was remembered for “his fiery personality, his fondness of the kids who visited Johnny’s, and his willingness to help his customers in need.”  The civic association raised nearly $840 in donations for Alhout’s family, which continues to operate the store. 

His murder remains unsolved. 

“That really shook and devastated the community, a lot,” Browntown Civic Association Secretary Bernadette Evans said.  “But, I think it’s also a call to people that we have to get involved, we have to do something.” 

Evans said since the crime, more than 20 people have come forward to volunteer as “block captains” in Browntown.  The block captains work closely with the BCA, the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, and several members of the Wilmington Police Department who are assigned to Browntown. 

“We’re aware, and visible, and taking notice of what’s around us,” Spragg added. 

The civic group has also begun the BCA Kidz Club, a youth council with adult advisors who plan activities and events for young people of Browntown.

Nancy Eaton has lived in the Browntown neighborhood for 17 years, and said she has no plans to move.  “Browntown is a beautiful, beautiful neighborhood,” Eaton said.  “I loved it when I moved in.  I love it now.”

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