An Open Letter Regarding Allendale and I-49

Dear Friends,

Community Renewal International has worked for twenty-one years to build relationships
throughout the city to meet the goal of “One community connected together through caring.”
Our sole purpose is in uniting people together through our common capacity to care for one
another. It is important to comprehend the nature of our work and the goal we have for our
community in order to understand the position of Community Renewal International in relation to
the current I-49 discussion and an inner-city corridor through the Allendale neighborhood.

Recently, as the I-49 issue has taken center stage, we at Community Renewal have
heard many people from both sides of the debate state what they have perceived CRI’s position
to be on this issue. Community Renewal International has had no official corporate position
until the publishing of this letter. We as an organization have taken no steps to either
encourage or discourage the building of the inner-city connector. That is not our mission.

We are relationship builders and do not participate in political issues as an organization.
We never have and we never will. CRI works to heal our divisions whatever they may be or
wherever they arise. Political issues can be very destructive to the foundational core of the
relational work that we exist to do! We even mandate that every Haven House Block Leader
agree not to display political yard signs because it can immediately hinder the work of building
positive neighborhood friendships. We are clear on this mandate for our whole organization.

Despite this core principle for us, there seems to be some confusion related to CRI and
the I-49 inner-city connector. I believe that the uncertainty stems from the nature of the
relationship between an Allendale neighborhood group known as “Loop-It” and Community
Renewal. “Loop-It” is composed of Allendale residents and others in the city who are in favor of
the loop/boulevard route that would avoid construction of the elevated expressway inner-city
corridor through Allendale.

As a neighborhood group, “Loop It” is welcome to, and does meet, in one of our
Allendale Friendship Houses. CRI welcomes any and all neighborhood groups consistent with
our mission to use our facilities as a place to meet. This is crucial if we are to walk with our
friends as they come together to renew their neighborhoods. And simply because we provide a
place for our neighbors to gather does not mean that we are a part of, or working in, their given
cause.

While “Loop-It’s” specific cause is not our general cause, we stand with their growth and
development represented by the professional nature of their structure and functionality. These
neighbors do embody the remarkable transformation that has occurred over the last fifteen
years as the folks of Allendale have linked arms and completely turned their whole
neighborhood to a new and wholesome direction. I would highly recommend that anyone who
has an interest in this issue, either attend their meetings or set up a personal visit with one of
their members. Dialogue is so necessary in friendship and you would be warmly welcomed to
share, whatever your view.

I also feel that it is important to share with you that we as an organization strongly
protect the right of any of CRI’s Team Members to support any cause or group consistent with
our mission (“to partner together to make our world a home where every single person can be
safe and loved.”) As such we do have an employee that has chosen to join the “Loop-It” group.
That is his/her right as an individual. We have others on our staff who feel strongly that it makes
sense to connect I-49 via an inner city corridor, and that is also their right.

CRI has spent 15 years working in Allendale, working in partnership with the people of
Allendale and with the Fuller Center for Housing and many local churches and organizations.
And what was once a dangerous, crime ridden corner of our city has now become a shining
example of the power of positive relationships to cities throughout our nation. The deplorable
living conditions of 1950s shotgun houses have been replaced by 48 new single family
residences with first time home owners. Violence in the vacant lots and buildings inhabited by
drug dealers and homeless has been replaced by neighborhood gardens and a new
neighborhood grocery store. And within a 10 year span, major crime fell 65%.

The hope that has been grown in the lives of our neighbors in Allendale has attracted
politicians, dignitaries, and businessmen from all over the globe to come to Shreveport and see
the good work. The name of Shreveport is on the lips of many throughout our nation in a
positive light. People and groups from all corners of our country are learning and adopting a
model started right here in our own community.

In an era of extreme political divide, politicians from both sides of the aisle have walked
the streets of Allendale and praised the lives and their work that has transformed a community.
Walking those streets have been a former U.S. President, a former U.S. National Security
Advisor, a Governor, U.S. Senators and Representatives, Chiefs from Cameroon Africa, and
scores of other dignitaries and businessmen, all for the purpose of seeing the transformative
work that has revitalized a once forgotten neighborhood. Hope has been reborn.

Our team of CRI has a Hope, too. Our Hope is that common accord can be achieved
and differences are bridged in the I-49 issue. Our Hope is that we can protect the inspiring
model of a shining example of true community renewal seen in Allendale even as a
progressively designed inner-city connector is constructed. That is our Hope.

     Now here is our Position: We are bridge builders.

Staying true to the mission of CRI, we would like to pursue the opportunity to help bridge
the gap between the two differing groups on this issue and provide a platform for dialogue and
understanding. We believe that it is important for those who are strongly in favor of the elevated
expressway corridor to take some time to get to know those who will be directly affected and
hear their concerns. Just as we feel it is important for those who are for a ground level
boulevard to hear the reasons and the benefits of the expressway. It is through bridging that
gap and growing a relational understanding between the two sides that the potential for a
common understanding and a best case solution can be reached.

God’s Blessings on All,
Mack McCarter
Founder/Coordinator
Community Renewal International