Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Jill of all trades to leave civic association

Capitol Heights resident served 13 years as civic group’s president; will now focus on second, third careers

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Brenda Ahearn⁄The Gazette
Natasha Shamone-Gilmore poses Monday in front of Brooke Road Neighborhood Park in Capitol Heights. Shamone-Gilmore is stepping down from her 13-year stint as Brooke Road-Rollins Avenue-Walker Mill Road Civic Association.
As a young girl growing up in northeast Washington D.C., Natasha Shamone-Gilmore remembers knocking on doors of her Ninth Street neighborhood and asking residents to participate in a neighborhood cleanup.

Decades later, Shamone-Gilmore, 53, is participating in community cleanups on Brooke Road in Capitol Heights and funding scholarships for local students as longtime president of the Brooke Road-Rollins Avenue-Walker Mill Road Civic Association, a position she will step down from in May after 13 years of service.

“It was supposed to be a two-year term,“ Shamone-Gilmore said. “And every year I tried to resign it'd be 'No. If it's not broke, don't fix it.’“

After moving to Capitol Heights’ Brooke Road community in 1990, Shamone-Gilmore became former County Councilwoman Dorothy Bailey’s citizen service specialist, planning public meetings at schools and community centers to address any concerns of Bailey’s constituents. Because of the knowledge and resources she had as a county employee, Shamone-Gilmore’s neighbors asked her to lead their community as the BRW Civic Association president.

Shamone-Gilmore has been instrumental in making her group stand out among the 41 civic associations in the 7th council district. She has planned science and technology fairs for Doswell E. Brooks Elementary School in Capitol Heights and coordinated the planting of 100 plants, shrubs and trees at both Doswell and Capitol Heights Elementary Schools for Gorgeous Prince George’s Day.

She also represented the civic group at public hearings in 2005 and 2006 to keep contractors from building 35 homes in the Pietanza Woods II development in fear they would bring additional traffic and crowd schools. She added the civic association is still fighting to get a streetlight placed at the intersection of Suffolk Avenue—which turns into Brooke Road—and Old Central Avenue.

Shamone-Gilmore said she especially pushed the group to find service learning opportunities for area students after learning that half of her son’s Suitland High School Class of 2005 did not graduate because they lacked the required 75 hours. Upon learning this, Shamone-Gilmore launched a campaign to hand out flyers to local schools such as Suitland’s Drew-Freeman Middle School, Central High School and Walker Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights to use the civic association as a resource to find student service learning projects. Students can earn hours through helping set up chairs for civic association meetings, or being an officer for a day, such as being a civic association secretary for one meeting.

But Shamone-Gilmore’s departure will not end her desire to help those in need.

Shamone-Gilmore wants to focus on her consulting group, Brighter Visions Consulting, which she began in 2001 and has served 10 clients such as Patriots Technology Center in Seat Pleasant and Choices For Success, a Bladensburg-based mentoring program for men. Her group assists with re-working resumes, customer service skills and leadership and interviewing skills.

Also an aspiring author, Shamone-Gilmore hopes to find a publisher for her book, “You Can Get The Job That You Want,“ filled with advice coming from a lifetime of dabbling in different careers.

Prior to moving to Capitol Heights, Shamone-Gilmore spent 12 years in Sacramento, Calif., working on costume designs for theater departments at the University of California-Irvine and California State University-Sacramento. Additionally she was a volunteer writer for Sacramento-area newspapers such as “Mom Guess What,“ a paper for the gay and lesbian community.

“I've never been afraid to try something as long as it was in my element,“ Shamone-Gilmore said. “It gave me an opportunity to get published and get exposure.“

Today Shamone-Gilmore works as a case worker for the county's Department of Social Services, helping parents who are working or finishing their education secure vouchers to pay for childcare.

Shamone-Gilmore’s daughter, Naomi Williams, 33, said she inherited her mother’s willingness to try different things. Raising two daughters as a single mother in Dumfries, Va., Williams is a Web designer, a graphic designer and host of her own Internet radio show, “Tales of a Single Parent.“

“She's always in leadership roles,“ Williams said. “Always in the forefront of things. As a child it really taught me about leadership, and responsibility and time management. Seeing your parent do it gives you a deeper perspective.“

Civic association Vice President Sheila Burroughs said Shamone-Gilmore has likely only missed two or three association meetings during her tenure as president. Burroughs praised Shamone-Gilmore for her understanding and revamping of the association’s bylaws and dedication to community beautification through participation in the “Adopt-A-Road“ program, where residents come out four times a year to pick up trash on Brooke Road.

“Nobody wants her to step down,“ Burroughs said. “They were probably shocked and amazed but it was just time. When I moved here which was 13 years ago, the BRW Civic Association had been dead for almost 10 or 15 years. To bring it back to life and to serve on it for at least 10 years, I think that says a lot.“