Vanderbilt Lawyer - Volume 37, Number 1

Good Neighbors

2008 graduates Tracy Kane and Omar Perez helped Nashville's Haynes Park Neighborhood Association form a non-profit.

Tracy Kane Omar Perez

When Gina Coleman started the Haynes Park Neighborhood Association with one of her neighbors in 2003, the two women simply wanted to address a problem plaguing their North Nashville neighborhood. Known drug dealers were parking on a major thoroughfare to sell their wares, creating a traffic bottleneck and intimidating residents. After the city's traffic department refused their request to establish "no parking" zones in the areas frequented by drug dealers, the two women enlisted the support of their state representative and former city councilwoman Brenda Gilmore, and went door to door asking neighbors to sign a petition requesting that the city government approve the "no parking" zones. "We had signatures representing 175 of the 250 homes in the neighborhood," Coleman recalls. "We got the no-parking zones."

The campaign's success energized the entire neighborhood. Coleman, a lifelong neighborhood resident, became president of a budding neighborhood association. "When we went door to door to ask neighbors to sign that petition, we found that people were just waiting for somebody to take a stand," Coleman says. "A neighborhood association tells people, 'You're not alone. We're in this together.'"

The organization had been loosely organized, but in 2007, Coleman and other board members learned that they could apply for city-sponsored grants to fund neighborhood improvement projects if they established a 501(c)3 organization. Thanks to Professor Laurie Hauber and 3Ls Tracy Kane and Omar Perez, a team of law students from Professor Hauber's Community Development Clinic, the group accomplished this in spring 2008.

Kane, who settled in Nashville before starting law school after living and working in China for two years, was still working with Coleman and other members of the association's board as a volunteer after her graduation in May to refine the association's bylaws. "Tracy really helped us," Coleman said gratefully. "She explained how becoming a 501(c)3 organization would help us accomplish our goals, the expectations for the organization's board of directors, what our roles would be, and about conflicts of interest. She clearly delineated our responsibilities, and the training I received about the role of neighborhood association president has been very helpful."