“It’s desolate and empty,” the 33-year-old barber said, referring to the crumbling, vacant houses that populate many streets in the area.
With people fleeing the area and few resources coming in, Lark said, the streets are left up for grabs — leaving them vulnerable to gang and drug violence.
The network of neighborhoods surrounding Lincoln Way West, stretching northwest of downtown, has seen several shootings this year, most recently, the fatal shooting of Charles Roberts, 18, at Adams Street and Vassar Avenue, an incident that also injured a second teen.
“We have given it up,” Lark said of the neighborhood.
Yet a grass-roots movement has sprung up, touting a mission to take back the neighborhood and send a positive message to the area youth.
Lark stood at the Phillips 66 gas station at Lincoln Way West and Adams Street Friday night from 9 to 11 with a group of about eight people at a refreshment stand, an anti-crime act to reclaim the area plagued with crime.
The group offered free Kool-Aid and cookies to passers-by at a gas station that many in the neighborhood said is a hub of drug activity.
“It’s to deter people from dealing drugs and causing violence by bringing something positive to the community,” Melissa Stokely, one of the event’s unofficial organizers, said.
The lemonade stand attendees have rallied together through a Facebook group called “South Bend Neighborhoods: Problems, Suggestions, Solutions” with more than 300 members.
Holding a lemonade stand in a high-crime area is an idea popping up all over the country, Stokely said.
The group chose to gather at the gas station after dark on the chilly weekend night because they see it as a problem-area, particularly at night, she said.
But they aren’t fearful, as there is strength in numbers.
“We plan on doing a lot of them,” Becky Kaiser, a lifelong resident of the area, said.
Those gathering hope to make the lemonade stand a frequent sight in the community with the goal of driving away crime by handing out cookies.
The group held a lemonade stand first late last month at the corner of Adams Street and Vassar Avenue where Roberts was killed in July.
Kaiser grew up about eight blocks from where she stood at the Phillips gas station Friday, and like Lark, described a much different neighborhood with manicured lawns and well-kept houses.
The area was mostly upper-middle class residents, many who worked at Bendix, a now defunct manufacturing company.
“I used to walk from Holy Cross Church to my house ... at 10 p.m. at night,” Kaiser said, adding that now she would never let a teenager walk that. “That’s what we want to get back to.”
Despite the crime rate of the area, Lark said he feels connected to the neighborhood and hopes in the long term to rebuild business in that part of the city.
He purposely set up his barbershop and hair design studio in this area, on the corner of Chapin Street and Western Avenue.
Kaiser agreed, as she has remained in her childhood neighborhood.
“We let it get this bad. Now we have to fix it,” she said.