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Retired Army captain and others working to restore Wylam back to thriving community

Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 11:33 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A retired Amy captain is on a mission to build his community back up. He wants to see Wylam thriving again.

If you look around 7th Avenue and Bank Street in Wylam, you’ll see a lot of abandoned buildings. Crime continues to plague the area as well. Retired Army Captain William Hicks lives in the neighborhood.

“I see desertion. I see poverty. I see lack of resources,” Hicks said.

Around the corner is the Colston and Brown barber shop. Owner Maurice Brown owns the section of the block that surrounds his shop. He invested here hoping things will turn around.

“I see us coming from nothing to something because this block was doing nothing at one point,” Brown said.

Brown is also doing his part trying to clean things up literally by placing trash cans along the sidewalk. Brown wants to see more investment, not just in the surrounding buildings, but also with kids.

“I want to see these kids pretty much having something to do. Have an outlet. That’s why they are so violent doing other things besides something productive,” Brown said.

16-year-old Meleeke McCants wants to see a public rec center where he and his friends can show off their basketball skills.

“It would bring the fun and everybody would be coming in to hoop,” McCants said.

McCants wants to see positive change for his community.

“It’s hard for me to make the right decisions. I do, but every day is a challenge though because you are around nothing but violence that’s it,” McCants said.

Hicks, who is also a real estate investor, does see potential, but he says it’s going to take everybody working together to build their community back up to a place, as a nearby mural reads, where “It’s nice to have you in Wylam.”

“It takes generation X, generation Y. Everybody has to step up. It’s a generational curse and if we don’t all come together we’re just going to be stuck,” Hicks said.

Hicks is investing more into the community. He owns a few properties there. Neighbors say the city needs to invest more into Wylam as well.

Brown tells us it’s going to take more than a village to make it happen, but they are hopeful it can happen.

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