By Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Federal Government’s Weed-and-Seed program is ending, and that is going to hit a coalition of East Dallas neighbors especially hard.  The Ferguson Road Initiative is composed of 35 areas groups located along Ferguson Road between Interstates 30 and 635, the LBJ Freeway.

“Our organization started in 1995 on a kitchen table,” says Kerry Goodwin, outgoing Weed-and-Seed coordinator, who loses his job at the end of the week as the federal funding dries up.  But the Ferguson Road Initiative has grown over those years.  It has three offices coordinating 300 volunteers; programs as varied as income tax help or lobbying for infrastructure upgrades.  But its biggest success is in cutting crime.

“We’ve had a 60% decrease in violent crime in our community since we started,” Goodwin tells CBS 11 News, adding, “Probably 50% of our activity is law-enforcement related; how to get criminals off our streets and how to make our streets safer.”

In 2005 it began working with the Department of Justice Weed-and-Seed program, bringing in federal money for police to help neighbors take back the streets.   “I personally in my neighborhood have brought more than a million dollars in police overtime money in the city of Dallas,” Goodwin recalls.

But Washington is pulling the plug on the program, leaving Ferguson Road and 300 other American communities to make their own ways. “We are currently fund raising not only within our neighborhood and local community but also fund raising with foundations and corporations to try to replace that money,” says Alice Zaccarello, the Executive Director of the Ferguson Road Initiative.

Weed-and-Seed describes its approaches to reclaiming neighborhoods.  The “weed” portion is to use law enforcement to weed out the criminal element, especially drug dealers.  Community policing would then help keep the streets safe.  The “seed” portion of Weed-and-Seed is to improve the quality of life.  Once an area has been reclaimed from crime, it is then redeveloped for homes and businesses.

Goodwin says there’s been substantial progress.  “Where we once had a lot of boarded up business fronts and people moving away we now have businesses coming back, new houses (are) being built.”   He points out there is a new hotel, a spray park for kids; a skateboard park and other infrastructure improvements for residents, including a hoped-for recreation center and soon including a new library.

That’s good news for resident Mary Savage.  “I’m very interested in having the library come,” she tells CBS 11 News.  “I currently use the Skyline Library, which is a little bit further away, so I’m real excited.”
Money or not, the group has too much at stake to quit; as if to underscore its importance, it hosts the two remaining candidates for Dallas mayor at a forum at St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church.