It takes more than just new housing to transform a neighborhood.
That’s why when NeighborWorks Columbus started work in the East Wynnton Park neighborhood 20 years ago, we sought the help of some of the world’s best kind of people: grandparents.
The Grandparents Program asked its participants to become “grandparents” to their neighborhood children. Spending a couple hours on their porch in the morning as kids were headed to school, and in the afternoon as kids were headed home.
Their homes were marked by a golden flag, letting kids know that this was a safe home they could turn to if they were locked out, in trouble or just needed an ear to bend.
Deborah & James Jones were the first “grandparents” in the program.
“Deborah really embraced the program,” said Cathy Williams, President & CEO of NeighborWorks Columbus.
When Deborah passed, her neighborhood wanted to honor her by naming the community garden after her.
“The dedication was set for a Thursday at noon. We closed our office so staff could go. Since this was a weird time of day, we were concerned not that many people would be able to go. But there were hundreds of people there,” Williams said. “This was the first time we really felt change. It was almost seismic.”