Jefferson Award Winner Co-Founded Lower Bottom Neighborhood Association

Oakland (KPIX 5) This week’s Jefferson Award winner helped turn strangers into neighbors to make West Oakland a safer place to live.

It is movie night for hundreds of neighbors on 10th and Center Streets. But 15 years ago, the scene was much different when Alicia Fontenette moved into her West Oakland neighborhood. She could not let her kids play outside: it was too dangerous.

“Back then, it was like (the) OK corral,” Fontenette explained. “It was like shootouts. (There’d) be kids outside and they’d just start shooting.”

So she and her neighbors founded the Lower Bottom Neighborhood Association in 2003 to take back their area from drug and gang violence.

The association brings people together through free block parties, soup nights, and movie nights.

The last movie night was co-sponsored by the Oakland police department.

Volunteer Margo Fleming credits Fontenette with building positive relationships.

“Alicia’s definitely one of the anchors of the neighborhood, helps hold it together,” Fleming said.

“We have a community of neighbors that know and care about each other, willing to do whatever it takes for that neighbor,” added Fontenette.

The neighborhood events are like street fairs with a variety of food and music. National Night Out featured a backpack giveaway and even a petting zoo.

Kids like Eddie are grateful.

“She makes me feel good when I’m over here and happy,” Eddie said.

Fontenette goes door to door to raise donations, organize the events, or recruit volunteers like Shannon Cavness and her daughter Maia.

“She’s tenacious about getting us together. She’s fierce about it. She really cares about the neighborhood,” said Shannon Cavness.

“It’s like we’re one big family,” declared Fontenette.

So for helping start the Lower Bottom Neighborhood Association to transform West Oakland into a closer, safer community, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Alicia Fontenette.

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