Group works to better Church Street neighborhood

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Little Princess Seeney was pretty in a dress and flip flops when she ran onto the front porch to hug Mark Thompson.

“It looks good, Princess. Look at that. Really good,” Thompson said, tipping her chin up to examine the scar from more than 20 stitches on the 6-year-old’s face. On July 2, she stepped off a church van on Naylor Street, crossed and collided with the side mirror of a moving vehicle, badly cutting her.

Saturday morning, the little girl was cheerful as she put her arms around Thompson, who was quickly surrounded by Princess’s two brothers and little sister, who’s 3.

A pastor at Emmanuel Wesleyan Church in Salisbury, Thompson was at their house, as he and members of Adopt a Block are every other Saturday morning, to deliver food, talk to them and pray.

The program focuses on the Church Street-Naylor Street area.

Thompson, with senior Pastor Tom Bunting, Pastor Jason Heil and a crowd of enthusiastic volunteers visit homes, listen to concerns and provide details about parenting, drug rehabilitation and educational programs.

Statistics indicate consistent neighborhood visits cause crime to drop more than 70 percent, Bunting said, as he headed down Naylor Street and greeted Annette Collins, who was walking on the sidewalk, sipping soda from a can.

“How are you this morning?” Bunting said, and she flipped a cigarette butt into the street. When he asked to pray with her, she took his hands and bowed her head.

“It lifts me up. I love for somebody to pray for me,” Collins said, smiling.

“We know each house. We know the house number, how many children,” Bunting said, as he continued walking, pausing to talk to neighbors who were outside around 10 a.m. A young woman told him she just moved to Salisbury from Baltimore and needs furniture. She flipped through the pictures on her phone looking for an image of her 3-year-old son, currently in foster care.

“We’ll help you, we’ll help you,” Bunting said. “Jesus loves you.”

“Yes, he does,” she said, nodding.

“We meet the nicest people,” he said, turning the corner. Standing by her mailbox on Barclay Street was Brenda Martin, a 68-year-old unemployed woman suffering with breathing problems and mourning the death of her son.

“I have to pay for his funeral. Every day I ask God to forgive me for anything that I’ve done,” she said.

“He already has,” Bunting assured her.

Bobbie Compton walked toward him, telling him she had clothes to donate, that she wants to attend church but has had back pain.

“Let’s pray for that back,” Bunting said, reaching for her hand.

He rounded the corner onto East Church Street toward Hotel Esther, the 19th Century, 20-room Victorian house he’d love to see the church buy one day, for classes, maybe as a rehab facility.

Assembled in a nearby vacant lot, all wearing blue Adopt a Block T-shirts, church members loaded fresh corn on the cob, chicken and boxed groceries into wagons for door-to-door delivery.

“We find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it,” said Heil, outreach director at the church.

“We started this in April and we felt the need to be consistent,” he said.

“We’re actually feeding them and offering them empowerment with workshops,” Thompson said.

“Our workshops will start in September. We also have fun days, like movie night,” he said, knocking on a back door, where a woman holding an infant greeted him.

Inside, he prayed “for this precious baby” and “protection over this house,” and left diapers, wipes and bags of food.

Outside, Heil was praying for a neighborhood resident worrying about financial problems. A church member patted his hand. “It’s going to be all right. Hope. That is what we bring today,” she told him.

Thompson stood beside Delana Seeney, Princess’s mother, as a wagon with four badly needed mattresses stopped in front of her house.

“Look. You got your mattresses for the children,” he told her.

She stared at them for a minute then quietly said, “Oh, my God.”

“See?” Thompson said. “Good things do happen.”

 Contact Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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