Marie Singleton, a seven-year resident of Lithonia, GA, volunteers her time nearly every day at Lithonia city hall. She works directly with Lithonia Mayor Deborah Jackson and Jackson’s two – yes, two – person staff, filling, needless to say, a huge void. So when the Mayor received an email about ioby’s Trick Out My Trip campaign, she naturally passed the challenge on to Singleton, who moved quickly to bring on several volunteer partners. They knew they couldn’t pass up the chance to improve their transit system through matched community donations – but where to even begin? “We need a lot,” says Singleton.
Singleton and her team decided to start with the most trafficked, and highest-visibility, points in their transit system, setting their sights on four main bus stops right in downtown Lithonia – all of them rundown and in need of repair, some needing new shelters entirely. By the end of October, Singleton hopes to see all four bus stops outfitted with the new benches, new side panels, and new shelters they need. The team is currently researching companies that manufacture bus shelters, and trying to decide which will best suit their needs.
So yes, the city needs a lot, but Singleton believes that if they start in downtown – for now – she and her team will have a great impact. “We start where the residents come to, and we start where the visitors come. When they pass through our downtown, when they see change, when they see movement, it’s gonna start challenging that view that people have of Lithonia.”
No small feat, that. Singleton says that Lithonia is plagued by an image it doesn’t need to keep. “We have to come up with a way to renew the identity of the city, and to get rid of the bad image. High crime rates, low income residential, stressed neighborhoods, bad schools – I mean, there is negative urban stigma that you find in Lithonia, and it doesn’t have to be like that. So all these small projects that we start are to make positive change, and to get people involved, get them excited about the potential that the city has.”
“We have to come up with a way to renew the identity of the city, and to get rid of the bad image. High crime rates, low income residential, stressed neighborhoods, bad schools – I mean, there is negative urban stigma that you find in Lithonia, and it doesn’t have to be like that. So all these small projects that we start are to make positive change, and to get people involved, get them excited about the potential that the city has.”
As icing on the cake, Singleton and her team plan to use the new bus shelters as blank canvasses on which they’ll post interesting factoids about Lithonia. She’s had a blast learning about the town’s history through her volunteer work, and she wants others to have that same opportunity, to feel that same pride.
“The community has to pitch in,” she says. “We need involvement. But people want to see things happen before they get involved. So for this ioby project, by putting the benches in the bus shelter, they will see the care, they will see that effort is taking place. They will see the concern from the city, and through this project I hope to get more people involved.”
Bringing the public transportation system up to speed is an important part of the effort to show Lithonians that their city cares, that it’s investing in a brighter future, and that they should feel good about following suit. “One person at a time, one project at a time,” says Singleton – a woman after ioby’s own heart.