Pubdate: Thu, 25 Dec 2008
Source: Florida Today (Melbourne, FL)
Copyright: 2008 Florida Today
Author: Susanne Cervenka


Sick Of Illicit Activities, Community Shows It Cares Via Holiday Lights

Carl Gerhart knows some people refer to his street as "Stinkin' Lincoln"
and consider it a place to find drugs or prostitutes.

But Gerhart and a band of neighbors want to send Melbourne a message that
they are turning around their East Lincoln Avenue community.

And they're spelling it out in Christmas lights.

"We want to change that persona," said Gerhart, who has lived on this
street for five years. "We want people to know that we do care and this is
a great place to live."

Neighbors along about a three-block stretch of East Lincoln Avenue decided
to decorate for the holiday. It's the first time Gerhart remembers the
street doing so.

The decorations aren't over the top: a Santa here, a snowman there and
strings of Christmas lights sprinkled everywhere. The street looks like
almost any other in the county.

That's the point, residents say. Holiday decorations are common in
neighborhoods free of crime.

"People don't put lights on a crack house," said Erik Germain, who
decorated his home for the first time since moving in three years ago.

The work that inspired the holiday cheer started months ago.

Tired of seeing drug and prostitution deals in front of their homes, East
Lincoln Avenue residents came together in July to form a community watch.
With the support of City Hall and police, residents have shut down five
drug houses.

Melbourne Councilwoman Kathy Meehan, whose district includes Lincoln
Avenue, said it is great to see neighbors come together. "Anything we can
do for prevention, I'm all for it," she said. Then came the idea to

About 10 homes of the three dozen in the 600 to the 800 block of East
Lincoln Avenue have decorated this year.

Patti Walsh, who lives on Lincoln Avenue with her husband, Germain, said
she anticipates her neighborhood will be the next area to bloom in
historic downtown Melbourne."I think it's worth fighting for," she said.
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