Pauline Simuel oral history interview, 2015 October 17
Pauline Simuel describes her life and her commitment to the Optimist Park community in Charlotte, North Carolina. She discusses her history with Habitat for Humanity, from building homes to moving into her own Habitat home in Optimist Park in 1986. She outlines her personal history growing up in a large family in Charlotte, the challenges of her job as a housekeeper and cleaner, and her tireless efforts to improve and strengthen her neighborhood. Ms. Simuel explains how initial efforts to start a Habitat Homeowners Association were met with opposition from the local community who already had a neighborhood association. She describes how a compromise was eventually reached with the creation of the Optimist Park Community Association. Ms. Simuel details her work as the president for both the Habitat association and the community association. This work allowed her to educate other neighborhoods about Habitat for Humanity programs, represent Optimist Park in local government, and promote change in the neighborhood. She discusses obstacles she has faced while working to improve her community, including fighting against polluting manufacturers, drug peddlers, and alcohol store owners. Although she has been frustrated by the lack of involvement from neighbors, she stresses the strong bonds in the community. She expresses concern that light rail and gentrification will threaten the future of Optimist Park and describes her feelings of betrayal from Charlotte's city government. She believes that the city government is working against the interest of Optimist Park residents by failing to respond to neighborhood requests to enforce traditional borders with adjacent neighborhoods of Belmont and NoDa , add new traffic lights at intersections, limit apartment construction, and prevent certain businesses, including a brewery, from locating in the area.
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