Terry Liggins is the Executive Director of Bennie E. Goodwin After School Program, which is located in Aurora, Colorado, but her heart and home reside in the Far Northeast Denver neighborhood of Montbello, where she has lived with her family for more than 15 years.
“A friend and mentor, Rich Male, approached me regarding some work around possible gentrification issues in the Montbello neighborhood,” Terry says. “He knew I lived in Montbello and thought I might be helpful in working with others to determine solutions. Once I found out the work that needed to be done, I knew I had to help.”
That was three years ago and Terry has since been involved, developing her strength as a leader with the Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC), a Mile High Connects grantee organization that works to engage Montbello community members and provide them with tools to develop grassroots leadership skills to address issues that affect their quality of life. MOC currently works with residents on task teams to address three main issues: retail and economic development, community enhancement, and transportation. Terry co-leads the Transportation Task Team (T3). To date the efforts of MOC have led to the cessation of service route changes that would have obstructed residents’ direct access to and from the only grocery store in the neighborhood. Additionally partnerships with council representatives have let to sidewalk and bus stop infrastructure improvements. Much more is in the works.
“I would like to see transit decisions on the community level be a more collaborative effort between RTD, city officials, and residents. I would also like to see decision makers be more proactive vs. reactive to local community needs around transit,” Terry says.
Why does Terry feel so passionately about Montbello? Perhaps it’s because it reminds her of “home.” “I really enjoy the diversity in people, housing, culture, economic status. It feels more like how the world should be. It also reminds me of the small community where I was raised in Pittsburgh—a neighborhood that consist of African American, Italians, Polish, Asians and more. We dined together, went to school together, went to church together, and played sports together. Sometimes thing went well and sometimes they didn’t, but at the end of the day we were still neighbors and friends.”
From her three years as a community advocate, activist, and resident leader she says that she’s learned that communication, flexibility, patience, and resilience are key. “Most of all I’ve learned to be a better ‘listener’, she says. “It’s vital to hear the voice of the community.”