Turkey Creek neighbors treat each other "just like family" - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Turkey Creek neighbors treat each other "just like family"

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Turkey Creek is both a scenic waterway and a deep-rooted Gulfport community. It also happens to be located near one of the busiest commercial corridors in the entire Southeast.

Several years before Hurricane Katrina, a young man named Derrick Evans began a grass roots effort to help preserve and promote Turkey Creek.

We first met Derrick Evans at a smart growth conference, where he'd set-up a modest display to raise awareness about the plight of Turkey Creek. The area was about to be threatened by a large, commercial development. The project never happened,  but the ongoing efforts of Evans did attract attention and support.

There is renewed hope in Turkey Creek today, along with significant challenges and opportunities.

Deena Israel plays with Benna Yamin Israel, grandchild number seven. She lives in Ohio now, but she frequently visits the neighborhood where she grew up.

"You see your reflection in the window," she joked with the youngster, who was all smiles after seeing his face in the rear window of a pick up truck.

The former Diane Evans has only positive reflections of the tight knit Turkey Creek Community.

"And everybody was so protective of everybody, helping everybody. It was like one big family. If you needed, whatever you needed, somebody had it for you. And if the children needed whatever, somebody had it for them, too," said Deena Israel, who was back in Gulfport for one of her frequent return visits to Turkey Creek.

That same sense of community is confirmed by Turkey Creek "elders" who frequently hold court in Flowers White's backyard.

"This is probably the community with the most "at home" atmosphere. No matter where you are in the neighborhood, everybody treats you like a sibling," said John Pittman.

These longtime friends and family share a wealth of pleasant adolescent memories.

"It was fun. We had a lot of running around space, like the woods. We'd go out in the woods and play, get up at six or seven in the morning during the summer and wouldn't get back home until four or five in the evening," said Flowers White, with a gleam in his eye and broad smile on his face.

"I don't think I'd like to live anyplace else. In fact, I've been other places, but I've always come back home. This is the place to be because it's a family. It's a whole family community. And we've always been family. We love each other and would do anything to help each other," added his brother, Warren White.

"We did plenty of swimming in the creek. I think I got the book thrown at me for slipping in one day. But that didn't stop me. Nothing deterred me. I went back the next day," said Pittman, matter of factly.

"Well, I didn't play in the creek. 'Cause I got a spanking for going in the creek once and never went back, until 2008. That's when I was building the bridge back there," said Flowers.

The "foot bridge" over Turkey Creek was built with the help of post-Katrina volunteers. Plenty of locals also had a hand in the project.

"As you see, it's real beautiful out here, nice, peaceful. It kind of rejuvenates you. It's a very nice place," said Albert Sloan, as he led a visitor to the foot bridge that now stretches over the creek and links walking trails.

At 29, Sloan has always enjoyed the scenic beauty of Turkey Creek, but didn't truly appreciate it as a youngster.

"You can't find a place like this no where in South Mississippi. You have a peaceful neighborhood and behind it you have your own God-made creek and basin, and it's just beautiful you know," said the young man, who now has a true affinity for this little piece of paradise.

Sloan and other volunteers helped build the nature trails that meander along the creek bank.

"We have a trail back there that leads to three different trails. And we have a main trail behind you that leads to like four different trails. Each branched out to different parts of the creek to see different sights of it, you know," Sloan explained to the visitor.

"Most everybody out here is kin folk. And you've got to be pretty good to stay in Turkey Creek. Because outcasts can't hardly stay out here," said Charlie Idom, as he broke into a deep pitched laugh.

Idom lives on the street named after his family. He built a new and larger house that was supposed to be finished in late August of 2005.

"The day the hurricane hit. So it took us another six months to finish because we got four feet of water in here," Idom explained.

He's among that core group of Turkey Creek residents determined to preserve their "sense of place."

"Somebody's gotta keep it going. If we don't keep it going, it's going to fade away," said Idom.

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