We settled in South Dallas-Fair Park in the 1980s. This is where my husband and I purchased our first and only home — three bedrooms, one bath. We liked the area because of its access to transportation options to move all about the city, whether by car, bus, on foot, or later by light-rail. Plus everybody in the neighborhood knew everyone else, making for a true sense of community.
My husband died of cancer two years after we bought our house. I was employed at a medical laboratory located near Baylor hospital, so I chose to stay because if my car broke down I could walk to the bus stop for a short ride to work.
Unfortunately this community deteriorated during the 1990s, due to longtime residents retiring to nursing homes or dying, which left their heirs to maintain properties. Some did, but most married and couldn’t get away fast enough to life in the suburbs. Properties became nests for drugs and prostitution and other criminal activities.
In 2004, a group of us that cared about this area and owned our homes organized a crime watch and reached out to the police for support. I was nominated and selected president of the then-new Dolphin Heights Neighborhood Association, representing our little corner of South Dallas-Fair Park.
I saw a need to bring this community together. We walked the streets, getting to better know our neighbors and whether they were proud of living here. Not all of them were. Some hated it. That’s understandable, as crime was prevalent at the time. I reached out to families, mainly Hispanic, who began to move into the neighborhood about what they wanted in their community. They wanted what we all want, really. They wanted a clean, safe, and healthy environment for their children. With their help, we began to reshape our neighborhood into a quieter and safer place.
One special family — among many I came to know — had been looking for a larger house for the 10 of them. They found one, but it was not in Dolphin Heights. They stopped by one evening to tell me they would rather stay put because it was safer here, that their children had a place to come and get help with homework or other issues (through the association’s after-school tutoring program), and best of all they knew everyone in the community.
That was 11 years ago. Four of their children are still attending our after-school and summer programs.
We all get together for community meetings every month. We have potluck get-togethers, and in August we celebrate National Night Out against crime. The kiddos get school supplies and backpacks along with hot dogs, chips, and drinks. There’s great cultural diversity in South Dallas-Fair Park, as it’s drawn together people of varied ethnic backgrounds. There is much support from the Dallas Police Department and the city.
Recently I have met two new couples coming to build their first homes in Dolphin Heights. When I asked them why they chose to move here? Because it’s in a central spot within the city of Dallas, there’s hardly any criminal activity, and they like the family-friendly environment.
Personally I could never live anywhere else.
Anna Hill has lived in the South Dallas-Fair Park neighborhood since 1984.