Neighborhood ‘superstars’ highlight community, business relationship in keeping streets safe

The message from Melanie J. Dressel, president and chief executive officer of Columbia Bank, was clear: “Safe Streets is good business.” Though the grammar appeared incorrect, Dressel’s statement was a play on words. She was referring to Safe Streets Campaign, an organization that empowers individuals, families, youth, neighborhoods, and organizations to create safe neighborhoods. Dressel was the keynote speaker at the organization’s 15th Anniversary Luncheon at the Tacoma Sheraton on Wednesday, an event that honored community volunteers who had worked to unite neighbors and businesses against crime.

“How do you sell Tacoma to businesses if the streets are not safe?” Dressel asked the crowd. “Local businesses have a vested interest in cleaning up Tacoma. Corporate leaders have to step up and take responsibility because the safety of our community has a direct impact on the quality of employees that businesses can bring to — and keep in — Tacoma.”

Dressel’s comments illustrated to the crowd that a safe community doesn’t simply impact residents and home-owners. It also impacts economic and business entities.

“We do business here,” she added, “our customers do business here, and our employees live here. Safe Streets is everyone’s business.”

The Safe Streets Superstars honored at the event included:

*Sue Burdyshaw — Blind since birth, Burdyshaw has helped to organize the Stewart Heights Neighborhood Coalition to clean up parks, launch a citizen patrol program, and host two National Night Out celebrations. She currently works as a community dispatcher, reporting emergencies and other issues to Safe Streets, Metro Parks Tacoma, and the Tacoma Police Department.

*Justin Madden — A member of the Youth Leading Change program, Madden helped plan the 2004 Youth Explosion event. He also formed the Teens Empowered Against Meth (TEAM) program.

*John Pellessier –As part of the Gas Station Park project, Pellessier facilitated the installation of new crosswalks at 7 schools in South Pierce County. He also worked with Citizens for a Safe Tacoma to get drug paraphernalia sales outlawed in the city. He currently works with the Department of Corrections to help former inmates find appropriate living accommodations.

*Donna Fulton — As the manager of Cedars Apartments, Fulton worked with Safe Streets and the Lakewood Police Department to rid her property of drug dealers. Fulton is the vice president of the Pacific Neighborhood Association.

*Sherlisa Richie — A graduate of the Youth Leading Change program, Richie was active in the Anti-Smoking Outreach campaign. She also helped plan the 2004 Youth Explosion event.

*Mike Hayes — A Pierce County Deputy Neighborhood Patrol officer, Hayes was honored for his work with communities to form block-watch programs and share information about crime in neighborhoods.

“The single factor to help reduce crime in neighborhoods is ‘neighborliness,’” said Priscilla Lisicich, Executive Director of Safe Streets. “It’s a simple principle.”

Safe Streets has been serving Tacoma and Pierce County since 1989. The organization brings community and strategic partners together on problems and opportunities to build safe communities.

At the luncheon, Dressel pointed to Safe Streets as one factor for Tacoma’s present economic and development renaissance. “We would not be promoting Tacoma as the most livable city without Safe Streets,” she said.

To learn more about Safe Streets, visit