Jillian Thomas (left) along with Valerie Taylor, both of Amityville,...

Jillian Thomas (left) along with Valerie Taylor, both of Amityville, stand in front of the laundry room where a 500-book library was donated by Mission Accomplished. (June 15, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Jessica Rotkiewicz

The laundry room was lined with washers and dryers. And in a corner, rows of books.

The incongruous setting housed the latest initiative of a group determined to win back a North Amityville apartment complex with a rough past.

Mission Accomplish, a group of community volunteers who live near the Andpress Plaza complex, built the 500-book library in the laundry room and dedicated it to Shantel Mallory and Aaron Thomas, who grew up in the plaza, attended college and died young.

Mallory, a mother of now 8-year-old twin boys, succumbed to breast cancer in 2007 at age 23. She had received her business degree from Utica College a week earlier.

Aaron Thomas, 19, a Farmingdale State College student, died in March, fatally struck by a car as he returned with a can of fuel to his own car stranded on the Long Island Expressway.

"We pray these books will be a blessing to this community," said Tracy Smitherman of North Amityville. "I think this will inspire the children to want to do something better."

Smitherman -- who built the bookshelves and organized the book collection drive -- is a member of Mission Accomplish. The group first met in June 2010 and has held weekly prayer walks since.

Back then, neighbors said, Andpress Plaza was dealing with frequent violence, police visits and suspected drug dealings.

A January 2010 shooting left two residents wounded and one dead. In November of that year, a North Amityville man fatally shot a Wheatley Heights man.

"We came out here for the children," Smitherman said. "And because of the killings that were happening."

One of the group's aims is to help residents "to know each other," Smitherman said. "If you're [apartment] No. 2, you can know No. 30. This way you have a reason to not want to fight or kill the other."

The group holds Thanksgiving and Halloween parties, carnivals and, last Friday, it organized a library dedication ceremony and summer kickoff barbecue to celebrate the efforts of the complex's students.

Smitherman said the efforts are having impact.

"A bunch of drug places have closed down," she said. "There was a crack house we used to see, with at least 60 different people in it every week. Kids go out now, they're not so afraid."

Suffolk County Police Det. Lt. Robert Edwards, who said the area has "consistently" seen shootings and robberies, said, "It's nice to see that the community is putting this together."

Valerie Taylor, Mallory's mother, called it "a change for the better. There's definitely been an increase of community. It meant a whole lot when they told me about the idea for a library."

Neatly ordered science books, picture books, maps and encyclopedias line two tall bookcases, leaving just enough room for the table and chair volunteers hope to add.

Aaron Thomas' mother, Jill, dressed in a shirt bearing a photo of her son, spoke to the crowd at Friday's dedication: "I want to thank you for your love and support."

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