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EDITORIAL: A light goes out in York
For more than 20 years, Chrystal Sexton-McEachin organized block parties. She tended to a neighborhood food bank. She told York City about drug dealers and dangerous buildings.
Most of all, she held her neighborhood together.
On Saturday, the Northeast Neighborhood Association took time to remember Sexton-McEachin, who died a week earlier after battling cancer for four years.
Sexton-McEachin, 58, was the only director the association ever had, taking on the job in 1998 after volunteering with the organization for two years.
The mother of five was known as the matriarch of the neighborhood, according to the group's Facebook page. She was the person residents would turn to when they needed diapers for the baby, when their children needed clothes for school, when the food ran out before the next check came in.
The NENA covers one of the poorest sections of York City, bounded by Ridge Avenue, Duke Street, East King Street and the Codorus Creek. The need in the area is always great, and the resources are few.
But Sexton-McEachin always had a smile for everyone and never had a complaint, according to those who knew her best.
“Chrystal always … shared with me that the best thing that we can do in our lives is to serve others. That was her mission. That’s what she reinforced to all of us," said Celia Keesey, a volunteer on the NENA board of directors.
York City Mayor Kim Bracey said she will miss Sexton-McEachin's smile during city meetings, where she would lobby for her neighborhood and its residents.
“We think about her smiling down on us — smiling because of (her) accomplishments and the work that’s carrying on,” Bracey said.
And now it's up to the community to make sure those accomplishments become permanent.
The association's building at 216 Chestnut St. was a gift from the United Methodist Church Conference in 2005, and it's open six hours a week for any resident who needs help. The building houses the food bank and also has clothing and household items available.
Sexton-McEachin walked in the Hustle 4 Hunger community walk to raise money to fight hunger every year, even after she became sick. This year the Jewish Family Services will remember her at the May 7 event at Springettsbury Township Park by walking the first lap in her honor and giving walkers ribbons in her memory.
Most of all, the people in the neighborhood and those who care about the city need to step up and fill the big shoes Sexton-McEachin left.
Those involved with the NENA believe that will happen.
“She spread so much positivity and so much good. That good will be spread to others,” Keesey said.
“I’m certain of it. People will step up,” NENA worker Barbara Beattie said.
We hope they're right.
Chrystal Sexton-McEachin devoted much of her life to the Northeast Neighborhood Association and the neighbors who became her extended family, It's up to those neighbors to continue her legacy of help and hope.