BARSTOW People who live on Riverside Drive sometimes feel forgotten by the city.

Venita Gaston-Hawkins grew up on "the Drive," as many Barstow residents call it. Although she no longer lives there, she still has family in the neighborhood, and she serves as secretary of Union Missionary Baptist Church on Riverside Drive.

"It always will be home for me, and I don't want to see the area run down," she said.

Gaston-Hawkins said she feels the predominantly African-American neighborhood does not get the same support from the city that other neighborhoods do. The street is peppered with boarded-up houses, Sturnacle Park gets little maintenance, the street had no sidewalks until a resident complained several years ago, and police are slow in responding to crimes in the area, she said.

When her nephew, Anthony Jones, was shot on the street in the Riverside Drive neighborhood in August of 2007, Gaston-Hawkins said, she was angered that California Highway Patrol arrived before the Barstow police.

"To me, that's what they think of that area it's like an afterthought," she said.

Community members like Gaston-Hawkins will have a chance to bring their issues directly to the city Tuesday night in the form of a town hall meeting, where residents be able to bring questions and concerns before the Barstow City Council in a public forum. As well as Council members, Mayor Joe Gomez said an official from the Barstow Police Department will likely be present, as well as Barstow Community Hospital CEO Michael Stewart.

Gomez said he hopes the meeting will be just the first of a series of town hall meetings, which he hopes to hold at different locations around Barstow every six months.

Pastor Seth Williams of Union Missionary Baptist Church played a large role in putting the town hall together, Gaston-Hawkins said.

Having gone door-to-door to let neighborhood residents know about the meeting, Gaston-Hawkins is expecting to see a large turnout Tuesday.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or

Town Hall

A town hall meeting will take place at Union Missionary Baptist Church, at 1360 Riverside Drive, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public, and community members will have a chance to voice concerns and ask questions of the Barstow City Council.