May 2018 Neighbor Spotlight Marcella Scurlock-Jones
Pictured below with her neighbor, her brother and a family friend
Congratulations to Marcella Scurlock-Jones on being recognized as the May 2018 Neighbor Spotlight for the City of Durham! Marcella was recognized for her work at JJ Henderson Housing Center, where she has lived for over 13 years. According to her community partners, “she has not only been their leader but a beacon, provider, advocate, liaison, counselor, and volunteer.”
JJ Henderson is a senior community in the Durham Housing Authority with over 175 units. Residents have to be over 55 years of age to apply. The building has a recreation area, an auditorium, and a dining room for community activities. They are also conveniently located near the downtown loop, Black Wall Street, American Tobacco Campus, and the Durham Bulls.
Marcella’s grandmother inspired her community involvement- she never saw a person her grandmother didn’t help. Growing up in such an environment sparked her own desire to support her community. When the manager and assistant manager of JJ Henderson saw her potential, she stepped up into a leadership role.
Marcella first got involved when she saw the needs of the seniors that were moving into JJ Henderson. She first ran for secretary, then vice president, and eventually served as the president of the JJ Henderson Resident Council and the president of the Durham Housing Authority Resident Council. During her leadership, she led conversations with the Durham Bulls, Capital Broadcasting Company and GoDurham regarding parking and transportation issues affected JJ Henderson residents. “I don’t mind facing anybody when it comes to the residents of JJ Henderson,” Marcella explains.
She ensures her neighbors are well connected to what’s going on in the Durham community. She heads the food bank program, attends the monthly PAC meetings, and is instrumental to the annual National Night Out event, which grows each year due to her dedication. Marcella connects her neighbors with the information and resources they need. Even if she herself doesn’t immediately know the answer, she can direct them to the right person.
One of Marcella’s latest leadership roles is serving as the Chair of the Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities. She is passionate about supporting seniors with disabilities, because she doesn’t think Durham is very ADA accessible currently. She explains “it is important to make sure that everyone with a walker, cane, and/or wheelchair can push a button to open the door.” In general, Marcella wants “seniors to be recognized as seniors, to have the same ability that other people have, access to the same things that other people have access to.”
When it comes to the DHA communities, she is concerned about the federal policy that went into effect in June that bans smoking within 25 feet of public housing. Some residents with disabilities have to get 25 feet away from the building to smoke, which is difficult, and she would love to have more classes to help with quitting.
Her advice to other community members:
- Be diligent in acquiring donations and sponsors
- Have patience with whomever you are working with
- Ask questions and do your research if you have a problem or don’t understand something
- Speak your mind and don’t just tell people what they want to hear
- Find trustworthy mentors to help steer you.
- This is challenging work and you may not always be appreciated. But to see the work you have done and the improvement you have made for your neighbors is gratifying.
For residents wanting to get involved in their neighborhoods, she recommends that they help plan National Night Out. Don’t wait until July, start now. It is a chance to get to know neighbors, first responders and to just be outside.