Originally created 06/30/03

Woman is champion for community causes



If Fran Stewart were a minister, she would have a year's worth of sermons ready to go.

But the humble homemaker from west Augusta doesn't have a pulpit, so she talks to anyone who will listen, preaching on how to improve the community. Give her an hour and you will hear most of her ideas:

All parks should be linked by bicycle trails. Homes and businesses need large numbers to identify the address. Pet owners should control noisy dogs and carry "poopy bags." Residents should clean the storm drains on their streets.

"I have so many ideas," she said. "I just want us to have a better world in the future."

Augusta Mayor Bob Young and most city officials know Mrs. Stewart well. She frequents their offices with each new cause.

"Don't ever say no to Fran because she will definitely find a way to get you to say yes," the mayor said.

The former nurse worked for 15 years to get a park in the Brookfield community, where she lives. Her efforts paid off: A new $1.13 million park is under construction. She reviews the progress daily and is urging the city to add a fountain to the plans.

Mrs. Stewart acknowledges being a visionary. She believes a teamwork approach is best for any community, meaning every resident should play a role.

But she practices what she preaches. It's not beneath her to wash a dirty speed limit sign in her neighborhood and trim the tree limbs around it.

"I want to be a problem solver, not a problem creator," she said.

As a member of the Augusta Safe Communities Coalition, she draws attention to aggressive driving, motorists who use cell phones and dangerous roads.

As the president of Brookfield Neighborhood Association, she writes a newsletter and helps administer a yard of the month award.

As an Augusta resident, she attends commission meetings.

"I'd rather be known as a Christian who shows the love of God," she said. "I don't want people to think you can't make a difference."

FRAN STEWART

AGE: 58

FAMILY: Husband, Charles Stewart; three adult children, Charlene, Glenn and Frank

EDUCATION: University of South Carolina, 1967, bachelor of science in nursing

ORGANIZATIONS: President, Brookfield Neighborhood Association; member, Augusta Canal Authority, Metro Augusta Clean & Beautiful, Safe Communities Coalition of Augusta, Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Club, Lucy Wright Parker Mission Group at First Baptist Church of Augusta

QUOTE: "We need a just world for everyone. The garbage collector is just as important to a community as a doctor."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.