CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A neighborhoods helping neighborhoods organization on Charleston’s West Side that has been around since 1996 is now planning on fulfilling their mission on a larger scale.

Naomi Bays said she is the first official director the West Side Neighborhood Association has ever had, a group that works on facilitating community renewal and clean-up projects on the West Side, and she came on 580 Live with Dave Allen Monday to talk about the organization’s plans moving forward.

After being in the position since October and working with programming possibilities for the organization on a more behind-the-scenes basis, Bays said she’s ready to launch the group into the spotlight.

“I wanted to work with the organization behind-the-scenes a little bit, tighten the organization up a little bit, you know, do some policies and procedures and make sure everything is on the up and up and then slowly make my debut and all of the things that we’re going to be doing,” said Bays.

Bays said the West Side Neighborhood Association got started with simply neighbors coming together with each other and holding clean up projects on their blocks. However, she said under Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin’s administration, the organization really started to grow.

Bays said they have a lot of larger-scale clean up projects they plan to conduct this year, including one where they will be partnering with the city for the annual spring clean up project, as well as host three more on their own.

She said they also have an initiative in the works that will give West Side residents the opportunity to beautify their blocks even more. Similar to an Adopt-a-Block program, Bays said residents will be encouraged to come together in a group of 6 to 8 people or more and conduct a certain number of individual clean up projects on their block, and they will be given an incentive of some kind helping to further beautify the block.

“Those things could be something along the lines of an artist-designed trash can, or an artist-designed flower box or something like that, those are the kinds of things we’re thinking about doing, but that idea is still in flux,” she said.

Bays said while the city’s biggest neighborhood district often gets a bad rep, the West Side is thriving, with a multitude of businesses and continuous positive growth.

“You know, there’s all kinds of restaurants, and there’s just a lot of things going on there, and it just takes you going out and taking a good look at it,” she said.

Bays said there has been a concerted effort over the past several years to bring more businesses and make continued improvements to the West Side. She thinks the effort has been successful due there being a greater awareness of what the area has to offer, including more affordability in rent and more space.

Bays said in her opinion, the biggest misconception of the West Side is that it’s unsafe. However, she said this is an issue that all cities face, and she believes the narrative on that notion has just been exaggerated and perpetuated.

“It seems to me that it is a narrative that just keeps getting repeated and repeated, not to say that there aren’t safety issues, there are safety issues throughout the entire city, just some of them don’t get talked about as much, some of them are not, you know, above the fold,” she said.

Bays said there are still a lot of good people and positive momentum happening on the West Side, something which she said was really emphasized during the November gas crisis when people stepped up to help neighbors in need.

“It is a vibrant community, neighbors care about each other, they really care,” said Bays.

She said they are currently looking for more board members to serve on the association. For those interested who are ideally residents on the West Side or those who have a business there, Bays said they can email her at [email protected].

Bays said they are also currently working on a website for the organization, but until then, she said you can find West Side Neighborhood Association on Facebook.