East Brewton, Ala.,
09:33 AM

Tragedy Leads to Progress

Sidewalks on heavily trafficked street to improve pedestrian safety.

In the mornings and afternoons, Williamson Street in East Brewton, Ala., is busy with children walking to and from school. With no sidewalks, the children, and other residents, are forced to use the grassy area near the road or the road itself to walk.

One winter morning, the danger of that was fully realized.

Devon Spencer was walking to school with a friend on a February morning in 2016 when he was hit by a teenage driver. The saxophone player and basketball and football star died in the hospital five days later from brain injuries related to the crash. The driver was sentenced to five years in prison.

“It was carelessness. It was a mistake,” says Ria Ricks, Devon’s cousin and State Farm® Claims specialist – Fire, Weather and Catastrophe.

The City of East Brewton submitted a grant with the state of Alabama to put in sidewalks on both sides of the two-lane road, and now, with the help of a $25,000 State Farm Neighborhood Assist® grant, the city can provide its portion of the money to start the project. During the voting process, 167,000 people cast 4.5 million votes in support of their favorite causes.

“This grant will make sure the kids have a safe place to walk to school. East Brewton is a really small, rural area with two schools on Williamson Street. There’s a lot of foot traffic,” Ria, who submitted the cause for the grant, says. “This grant will make the children’s commute easier and safer.”

Ria still tears up when she talks about the day her cousin died.

“When everything happened, they found a pair of shoes on the side of the road, but he had his shoes on him. It turns out he had brought an extra pair of shoes for another student who was being picked on,” she says. “He was the sweetest kid, and so talented and smart.”

The East Brewton Sidewalks for Safety in Memory of Devon Spencer is one of 40 causes receiving a Neighborhood Assist grant in 2018. Ten days of voting pushed the winning 40 out of 200 finalists to the top through the crowd-sourced philanthropic grant program.

“State Farm is here to help life go right in neighborhoods all across the country. We look forward to seeing the changes in these 40 communities because of these Neighborhood Assist grants,” said Allison Bertsche, Public Affairs Director at State Farm.

For a complete list of this year’s Top 40 causes, visit www.NeighborhoodAssist.com.

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