‘Any way we can help make it better’ — Better Brookhaven aims for just that

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, June 1, 2023

It’s been said “you can’t go home again” — the places from your past won’t be the same as they used to be, whether better or worse.

That’s what Brookhaven High School alums Emma Devine and Ann Wilson discovered about their hometown when they returned after years elsewhere. The women moved away after graduating in 1984, and eventually returned to Brookhaven — both in 2019.

The sense of community support for neighbors that was so prevalent to Devine and Wilson as children and teens was missing, or at least fading, they felt. There seemed to be a lack of guidance for young girls, as well. The friends believed they were called to do something to help make Brookhaven better.

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“There were already organizations for that audience (of young girls), so there was no need to reinvent the wheel,” Devine said. “We also didn’t want to step on toes or have it seem like we were trying to take over what other people were already working on.”

The duo began to find what groups were already in place in the city, and what they were doing to make a positive impact.

“So we started an organization to help existing organizations be as effective as they can be,” said Devine.

They focused on their calling, and Better Brookhaven was born. The non-profit has four focuses:

First, to help local organizations to be more effective. The team recently hosted a virtual workshop on how to find grants and get loans.

Second, to help small businesses to thrive. Better Brookhaven also recently hosted a virtual summit for owners of small businesses, and will have replays available soon.

Thirdly, to assist with youth advocacy. The women’s goal is to help all existing organizations in the city to achieve their goals, through helping with mentors, educational opportunities, and teen center revitalization.

The fourth focus is on citizen empowerment, helping residents register to vote, make an informed vote — know the candidates, the issues, and the job’s expectations — and other things homeowners need to know, like how to appeal property appraisals.

Better Brookhaven hosts a monthly meeting open to the public on the first Saturday at 2 p.m., in the East End Community Center, 907 East Independence St. The next event is Saturday, June 3.

“Most people know us,” Wilson said. “We want Brookhaven to be better and it can be, like when we first lived here. It was a community. We helped each other. The sense of community is not like it used to be.”

“There was accountability in the community,” said Devine. “Some people are doing excellent work here now, but need federal ‘legitimacy’ to get more opportunities. This is for taxes, yes, but also business expenses, etc.”

“We want to give everybody a helping hand,” Wilson said. “To make Brookhaven as a whole better, that’s our goal. Anyway we can help to make it better.”