The temperature has spiked into the mid-90s on the this summer day and the neighborhood kids run through water at Seven Oaks Park for relief from the heat.
A spray park is the newest addition to the expansive green space, thanks to efforts by neighbors like Gwen Davis, who is executive director for the Seven Oaks Neighborhood Association. She’s lived at her home on Cypress Avenue for 40 years.
Davis decided to get involved with the neighborhood after she retired a few years ago. She joined the neighborhood association and before long she was in charge. The changes in recent years have included the neighborhood’s renaming and rebranding to Seven Oaks from what it used to be called, Knoches.
Davis works to get people to attend meetings and address the dumping of trash in the neighborhoods. She puts people in touch with services to help them with overgrown weeds and rodents. She also has played an important role in revamping the central green space.
“The park – that’s my baby,” she says. A few years back, a trip to Italy inspired her. She went on a tour bus that passed a park packed with people, the kids were swimming and people were laying out reading books. She wanted that sense of community for her neighborhood. She worked toward getting the spray park built and the people came.
“Our community is basically seniors but then the younger people came to the neighborhood,” she says, mentioning the newer apartments nearby.
Another key to the neighborhood’s healthy growth is access to groceries. Leon’s Thriftway, a few blocks from Davis’ house, is key, she says. It’s been in the neighborhood longer than she has.
Leon’s opened shortly after the Kansas City riots following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and the store survived the urban decay that resulted when white populations fled to the suburbs. It stands strong today and Leon’s is believed to be the longest running black-owned independent grocery store in the country.
“I don’t know what we’d do without it,” Davis says. “I guess we would shop elsewhere but we would be lost.”
Davis remembers needing batteries or nutmeg at Christmas and Leon’s would be open. The store also donates food and drinks for community events at Seven Oaks Park. People come out for gatherings and barbecues.
KC Healthy Kids is expected to work with Leon’s to use fresh food financing for necessary updates and renovations to the store.
The organization has worked hard for the last several years to help communities make healthy changes. The group is implementing recommendations from a local task force that has a goal to eliminate barriers to healthy lifestyle necessities like fresh food.
What can you do to support healthy communities?
“Shop at your local neighborhood grocery stores and let elected officials at the state and local levels how important it is to support grocery store renovation, for the overall strategy for the health of the community and economic vitality,” Low-Smith says.
This is the third in our series on Leon’s Thriftway and the community it serves.
AUG 02, 2016 Longtime black-owned grocery store seeks updates to keep with the times
AUG 09, 2016 Kansas City needs fresh food fund for stores like Leon’s