Updated: May 6
Mario Neavez and his three siblings grew up in La Habra, California, an idyllic neighborhood in North Orange County that reminds him a lot of West Homewood. His parents were immigrants from Mexico who came to America with the hope of giving their future family a better life. “My mom worked two jobs, and my dad worked the night shift for 20 years so he could be there for us after school. My siblings and I lived in a safe neighborhood, received a good education, and achieved more than we could have in Mexico. My parents are very thankful they came here,” Mario shared. Mario’s parents became citizens in 1999, and he recalls how he was able to vote in his first US election alongside his parents.
Mario attended Whittier College, the place where he would meet his future wife Tami Hallman. A native of Pinson, AL, Tami attended Whittier along with her half-sister and she even bought an airline ticket to California before getting accepted. As they say, “the rest is history.” Mario and Tami were on campus a few days earlier than the rest of the student body and were introduced by a mutual friend. With a huge smile on his face, Mario shared how Tami made an impression on him when they first met. “Let’s just say her sweet, southern accent was very fresh!” Mario and Tami began dating after that first meeting in 2002 and got married in 2005 before moving to Alabama later that same year.
“We moved to Alabama for affordability, but it took us a while and a few real estate trials to find West Homewood.” Their first home was on the outskirts of Birmingham, and they quickly realized they wanted to live in a community that had more of neighborhood feel. So, they sold their home and moved into a Homewood apartment near Central Park. They fell in love with the convenience, walkability, and events taking place right outside their doorstep.
Moving to West Homewood
Their next move was to West Homewood where they found a lovely home on Hall Avenue in 2011. Unfortunately, the buying process was difficult. “The home was a foreclosure, and we lost it the first time we bid on it. To our surprise, it came back on the market, and we resubmitted an offer and it was accepted.” They have been working on making it their own ever since!
Mario enjoys watching his three-year-old daughter Teagan experience a similar childhood to his own. He has fond memories of being outside a lot as a kid, playing sports, walking to school, and having friends from all walks of life. He and Tami want Teagan to experience the same here in West Homewood. “Seeing things through her eyes has changed my perception of so many things. We have a wonderful neighborhood for children, and the recent investment in the park and pool has been huge. Walking through the neighborhood with Teagan in her stroller and now on her bike is great. Teagan loves to stare out our window and wave and yell ‘HI’ to our neighbors. She loves to run outside randomly when she sees people she knows.” Right now, Mario, Tami and Teagan enjoy going to the park, creating a vegetable garden in their backyard, and having dinners at Acapulco, their favorite West Homewood restaurant. Mario’s parents have also moved from California to Alabama and are now only ten minutes away, which makes life even better for Teagan.
Mario has become more connected with West Homewood in various ways over the years he’s lived here and, in the recent city council election, he was very involved helping with Carlos Aleman’s campaign. He described how getting involved in local politics and seeing how he could make a difference was a great experience and made him want to play a bigger role in West Homewood. Mario also participated in the Citizen’s Police Academy, which teaches how the police department works, and he highly recommends this experience to everyone. “The class made me more aware of how important Homewood is. Knowing we have a police department operating 24/7 is eye opening. The police have done a great job at keeping our neighborhood safe. These experiences have shown me the importance of being willing to keep an eye out for your neighbors.” Mario also shared that joining Nexus Fitness has also connected him to neighbors within the community. “It’s always so interesting to see folks at the gym then walking the neighborhood!”
Mario loves West Homewood but feels there is still room for growth in a few areas. Let’s just say, he is not a fan of the Turkey Foot intersection, but who is? He also thinks it may be time for a bigger playground!
We asked Mario to share his thoughts on diversity in West Homewood. “I think we are welcoming of diversity to a point. We’ve started moving in the right direction, but it’s going to take more uncomfortable situations to move us forward. We have to continue to be welcoming. As a person of color, I am happy to see all colors playing together at the park, but hard things still occur in our country. I’ve been accused of not looking Mexican enough, and it’s offensive. We have to learn as a community to do better because situations have not always been easy for me or other people of color.”
To Mario, the future of West Homewood looks bright, but he feels we can’t slow down the progress we’ve made over the last 5 years. He understands that some may struggle with all of the changes and growth in West Homewood. Growth can be overwhelming but, in his opinion, more progress still needs to be made in adding new businesses and home renovations being completed throughout the community.
“I feel like there is more opportunity in West Homewood than anywhere else in the area, and it will be exciting to see what progress is made in the future.”
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