DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) – “I’ve run into people and I mention Elmwood and they say, ‘oh my gosh, my mom used to live out there. Or I grew up playing basketball in that neighborhood. And I say, ‘come back out, we need your help,'” Elmwood Community Playground and Civic Group member Dee Ann Ryan said.

The Elmwood Community Playground and Civic Group is recruiting people to revitalize Danville’s southeast side.

“At one time, it was a thriving neighborhood. Because there’s houses everywhere, homes,” Vice President Robert Isaac said.

Elmwood Park is a place full of history, diversity, and people who care about its future.

“There’s a lot of neighborhoods that probably need attention, and need redevelopment. But we don’t want the city to lose sight of this neighborhood,” Ryan said.

That’s why they’re committed to rebuilding the once “flourishing” neighborhood.

“Every time a house is demolished or I walk by a lot, I still can hear the voices of some of the parents who were there who instilled values that have protected not only me but a lot of the residents who are here today,” Chaplain Ivan Smith said.

The group formed in the 50s to improve recreation and prevent “juvenile delinquency.” But membership dwindled over time.

“A lot of the original founders – they’ve just simply passed away,” Smith said.

Today, they’re at about a couple dozen members, and growing.

“Everything we’re doing now is for the future,” Isaac said.

Some of their goals are as simple as cleaning up the community and adding sidewalks, or as long-term as creating affordable housing opportunities for seniors and families and repurposing empty lots.

“They are vacant, but we want to bring the neighborhood back up. And it’s a nice neighborhood out here,” Isaac said.

One of their top priorities is honoring those who came before them.

“My dear friend Ms. Nelson is 94 and not doing so well, so we want to make sure that we leave a legacy for her and all the other people who did so much for this community,” Ryan said.

They’re hoping to get 50 members by December. To meet that goal, they’re holding a fish fry and membership drive Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Owen Lee Nelson Center at 210 Victory Street.